Thursday, July 18, 2024

Talking About Novels In My Novels by Marilyn Levinson


I enjoy having my characters discuss books in many of my novels. It must be the old teacher in me rearing its head. I was a high school Spanish teacher in another life, and what I loved most was conducting literary discussions in Spanish with my more advanced students about whatever novel or
stories they were reading. I’ve also led many book club discussions and enjoy raising provocative questions regarding the book we've all read to see how the members react.

The first time I did this was in my second published book, a YA called A Place To Start. My protagonist's English teacher leads a class discussion of "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut." Then he and a girl he doesn't like are forced to work together on a report of Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery." What fun it was to write their reactions to this very powerful story that first appeared in The New Yorker.

Gabbie Meyerson, the sleuth in my mystery, Giving Up the Ghost, has taken over an English teacher's classes midyear in the sleepy village of Chrissom Harbor on Long Island. Her students are reading The Great Gatsby, which takes place on Long Island. Though she hasn't taught in many years, Gabbie is determined to make reading this book an adventure for her students. After they read a scene about one of Jay Gatsby's famous parties, she has them compare it to parties in the Hamptons they've read about. 

Through questions and prodding, she helps them to understand the various characters in the novel, and to see how their interactions bring about tragedy, that Gatsby's death is a result of cause and effect. Now motivated, the students are eager to do their written assignments. As for Daisy, one student wonders if Jay Gatsby really loved her, or if she was an illusion he created based on her beauty and wealth.

Book discussions play an important role in Murder a la Christie and Murder the Tey Way, the two books in my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club mysteries. This series is my tribute to authors of the Golden Age of Mystery, which took place roughly between the two World Wars. Book clubs exist for the purpose of group discussions--about the book and whatever topics the book inspires. In Murder a la Christie, Professor Lexie Driscoll is conducting the book club's first meeting in her friend's elegant mansion. She gives the group a brief bio of Agatha Christie and has begun talking about Dame Agatha's The Mysterious Affair at Styles when another friend becomes ill and dies. A heart attack is the general consensus, though Lexie suspects poison.

Lexie continues to investigate and to lead discussions of Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, The A.B.C Murders, and A Murder Is Announced. As more club members are murdered, parallels are drawn between them and the murders in Christie's novels. At the end of Murder a la Christie,  Lexie gathers the members in a circle a la Christie and exposes the murderer just as Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot might do.

In Murder the Tey Way, murders and mysteries abound as Lexie and her book club analyze some of Josephine Tey's novels: The Daughter of Time, Brat Farrar, Miss Pym Disposes and To Love and Be Wise. At one point, Lexie tries to determine someone's guilt by employing Tey's fondness for the psychology of facial expressions that was popular in her day. The subject of gender bending arises in To Love And Be Wise, bringing about an interesting exchange among the club members. The subject leads Lexie and her friend to speculate about male-female roles, which may have relevance to the murders they are investigating.

Note: Both Murder a la Christie and Murder the Tey Way have been republished this year by Rowan Prose Publishing. Giving Up the Ghost will be republished by them in 2025.






Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Killer Characters - The Most Difficult Stage in Writing


The Most Difficult Stage in Writing

When it comes to writing, all authors are different. We thought you might like to know what we each find the most difficult stage in writing.

James M. Jackson - Writing a synopsis takes me for-flipping-ever. I hate every single second of it, and I count them all. The last one took 20,249 seconds.

Connie Berry - The initial draft—just getting words on the page. Once there, the fun begins. I love the quote (attributed to Dorothy Parker?): “I hate writing. I love having written.”

Lori Roberts Herbst - Writing the first draft. I love outlining and coming up with ideas, and editing is probably my favorite stage. But during the first draft, everything seems so big and knotty and senseless as it comes out of my head.

Korina Moss - Because I under-write my first draft, it’s very stilted language with bursts of dialogue—just to get through to the end and make sure the story holds together. The next stage is writing it with the proper prose, and that part is arduous for me. 

Molly MacRae - Possibly convincing myself that I can do it again. Will the feeling of doom and dread that I don’t know how to write ever go away?

Sarah Burr - Writing the first three chapters of a manuscript. If it’s Book One in a new series, you have to introduce the main players, yet keep things moving, and if it’s a subsequent novel in the series, you have to recap without giving too much away or making it boring.

Grace Topping - Getting started on a new project. Without a contract deadline, it gets harder and harder.

Annette Dashofy - The latest part of the muddle in the middle when I’m trying to figure out a smooth transition into the final act. That’s where I am as I answer this question. I might’ve responded differently if I was stuck at a different stage.

Heather Weidner - The editing and revising parts are the hardest for me. I really have to stay focused when I have edits to work on. (I sometimes have to bribe myself with tiny rewards to keep myself motivated. Okay, Heather, you can have ten minutes for an internet break after you finish one more chapter.) 

Margaret S. Hamilton - The first line.

Marilyn Levinson - The sitting down part and getting started each day.

Mary Dutta - Coming up with the plot. I love revising once that's done.

Susan Van Kirk - I’m afraid I’ll have to be boring and say it is the oft-cited muddle in the middle. I know how my mystery will start and end. What happens in between is often a total mystery to me.

Debra H. Goldstein – Coming up with the idea that I think is worth writing about.

Martha Reed - The middle muddle when I need to decide which story arcs need to be highlighted and how best to weave them together to keep the reader engaged. 

Lisa Malice - As a pantser, the hardest stage on the novel-writing process is that first draft, especially the opening scene. It needs to really grab the reader, so that first chapter gets rewritten quite a bit.

Kait Carson - All of it. Oh, sorry. The beginning. As a plotster I struggle with too much backstory while I tell myself the set-up. It all comes out in the end.

Nancy Eady - The first draft.  Once I have something down on paper, I can edit because I have something to work with.  But getting something down that first time is hard. 

Shari Randall - Writing the first scene. I adore rewrites and edits, but figuring out where to begin a story is the challenge.

K.M. Rockwood - Getting the first draft down completely before I give in to the urge to go “fix” things. I do make notes for myself, but if I went back & edited everything, I’d be like Ignatius J. Reilly, who spends years working on the first sentence of his manuscript.

E.B. Davis - Where to start. I often write the end before the beginning.











Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Katherine Center: A Model for Conducting an Author Presentation

by Paula Gail Benson

Katherine Center

Until she came to my local Barnes & Noble, I had not heard of Katherine Center. As I was leaving one Saturday, I was intrigued by the sandwich billboard at the store’s entrance that announced her visit the next day. From my car, I called to learn I needed to buy a book and get a wrist band the night before the event to be seated.

I returned to the store, made my purchase, and googled her. Her website prominently featured the Bookpage quote: “Katherine Center is the reigning queen of comfort reads.” A reader review from Melissa proclaimed: “If you’re not reading Katherine Center, you’re not living your best life.”

Wow. Impressive.

I learned two of Katherine’s books had been developed as Netflix films. One of them, Happiness for Beginners, was available to view, so I watched it. The story was about Helen, a divorcee, who went on a wilderness survival adventure and unexpectedly found her brother’s roommate also on the trip. Delightfully funny, a charming rom-com. I looked forward to seeing Katherine in person.

To get a seat, I arrived a half hour early. I was surprised to see Katherine already in front of the group asking questions and telling stories. As the chairs filled, I heard people talking. They had come from areas ninety minutes to two hours away. Some had followed her from a previous appearance on her tour with her latest novel The Rom-Commers, about an aspiring screenwriter hired to fix a veteran writer’s bad script. Two sisters, both teachers, sat in front of me talking about how much they loved Katherine’s books and planned to spend their summer reading them. Once the time for the presentation came, Katherine spoke for at least an hour and a half before beginning to sign books (which was handled efficiently by the B&N staff).

Katherine was amazing. I completely understood why all those gathered were devoted to her.

So, what did she do and why should it become the playbook for all author appearances?

First, she arrived early (her tour appearances were spaced to achieve this) and did not sit down the entire time she was there. Not before the official presentation nor during the signings. (In particular, she remained standing during the signings so she could take photos and give hugs.) Her energy was phenomenal, and it fueled the excitement in the room.

Second, she had a great sense of humor, the target of which, for the most part, was herself. She told about, a few days previously, appearing at a church and reading an excerpt from her novel before realizing it ended with a phrase concerning if the sex wasn’t right someone was doing something wrong. Embarrassed, she looked at the minister, who assured her there was no problem with what she read. She actually read the same passage for us.

Which brings us to three, if you do a reading, make it lively and short. She chose well because the scene highlighted the two main characters and made readers want to know more.

Four, approach the experience as if you’ve been invited to someone’s home. Be on your very best behavior, which includes being kind, courteous, and grateful.

Five, embrace your readers. Recognize that they have spent hours with you and your characters and let them know you appreciate them.

At this point, I have stocked up on Katherine Center’s books and advise you to do the same. I agree with her reader, Melissa, if you’re not reading her, you are not living your best life.

Has an author’s personal appearance ever left you as a new fan?
Me with Katherine Center


Monday, July 15, 2024

How Do You Measure Productivity?

How Do You Measure Productivity? by Debra H. Goldstein

Writers often measure a day’s productivity in terms of how many words are produced, whether edits have been accomplished, or if blogs or other related social media are addressed. It is a great feeling when any of these things are marked off the to-do list. Of course, there’s always more an author can do. But, is this type of measurement always sustainable? More importantly, is it fun?

I don’t think so. 

At times, recharging one’s mental batteries and efficiency necessitates taking a break without feeling guilty. For example, after getting in late from traveling and then needing to be up early for four mornings in a row, I was exhausted on the day before I wrote this blog. Deliberately not setting an alarm, I crashed early. To my amazement, it was almost nine when I woke up. After a quick breakfast, I was about to start my writing day when I decided there were a few things I needed and wanted to do first: throw in a laundry, mail some letters, grab a Starbucks latte, go by the bank, pick up my laundry from the cleaners, spend an hour at the gym, do a full grocery run, switch the laundry, read a good book while a meatloaf baked, talk on the phone with a friend for an hour, and mindlessly watch a few episodes of HGTV’s House Hunters. At that point, I felt content and eager to do some writing.

Even if I hadn’t written a word, I’d have felt that it was a productive day. But, I wrote.

Rather than worrying about word count for a new project, I decided to address some of my July blog obligations. I didn’t plan to write more than one, but as relaxed as I was, I quickly knocked out all of them plus a guest blog. Those finished, I cleaned my desk and planned the next few days of writing projects. 

Although I enjoyed doing nothing during my vacation days, knowing how much I had to catch up when I got home weighed on me to the point that I didn’t have the spark necessary to focus on my works in progress. Taking a day to simply catch up on life’s obligations, with the inclusion of some fun activities, cleared my mind and renewed my desire to write.

Whether one does mundane things like I did, takes time to work in the garden, enjoys family life, or takes an actual vacation, the key is to take time for oneself without being consumed by guilt at not writing (or whatever else you might normally prioritize in your life). 

In the end, there are multiple ways to measure productivity; but, not without taking the time for fun (or as someone once wrote, smelling the roses). 

 


Sunday, July 14, 2024

WHAT DOES A PUBLISHING HOUSE EDITOR DO?

 By Korina Moss



Before I became a published author of the Cheese Shop Mystery series, I had only a vague idea of what a publishing house editor does. I’m sure I still don’t know all their roles, but I do know what my relationship with my editor is regarding my series. Take into account when reading this that not all editors are the same and not all publishing houses are the same. In this post, when I refer to an editor, I’m basing it on what I know about the role of editors in my larger publishing house (Macmillan Publishing). This may be very different than what editors do in smaller independent houses. It’s also different than a freelance editor you might hire to help you with your manuscript before you send it out for querying or self-publishing. I’m also aware that I’m simplifying the roles of a publishing house editor and likely leaving out many other important duties their job entails.

One of the roles of an editor is to read and evaluate manuscripts sent to them by agents. If an editor loves your manuscript and thinks it’s marketable and will fit their house, they will bring it to the acquisitions team to discuss whether to make an offer. In larger houses such as the one I'm with (Macmillan Publishing), it is never the decision of just one person.

Once you sign a contract with the publisher, your editor is the project manager for that book or series. It’s their job to shepherd that book to completion. They are in charge of making a lot of decisions about the book, such as the direction of the marketing team, the cover art, possibly the title, and keeping track of the production schedule. I've heard from my author friends that their editors have given them varying degrees of involvement with these parts of the book process. In my case, my editor has asked my input on the cover art, and we’ve bounced around cheese pun titles. All the book jackets in a series should be cohesive, so the designers are also involved in the titles and cover art decisions. People often judge a book by its cover, so I’m happy to leave it up to the professionals. However, with each book, my editor asks for a short summary from me about things that might be germane to the cover, such as plot points, locations, season, etc., so they can align the cover design with my story.    

Once I hand in my manuscript, my editor will go over it and do what's called a developmental edit. This is different than line editing, which is fixing grammar, word choice, punctuation, etc., which is taken care of by a separate editor, the copy editor. A developmental edit means she makes suggestions for changes to the content, such as the pacing, characterization, inconsistencies, etc. A misnomer is that an editor makes changes to your manuscript or demands the author make changes. In my experience, that has never been the case. What an editor will do is point out where she thinks the trouble spots are, and then leaves you to decide if you agree and make the appropriate changes or not. Because I write a series, she also keeps tabs on past books. For example, in my third book, Curds of Prey, she thought my original ending was too similar to one I'd just done in Gone For Gouda. I hadn’t been happy with the ending either, for other reasons, but I had to get it in by the deadline. Since several weeks had passed since then and knowing my editor thought the ending was lackluster as well, I was able to read the manuscript with fresh eyes and come up with a much better ending. Among all the other things my editor does, she’s made me a better writer. 

Last but certainly not least, an editor champions their authors’ books, presenting them to the publishing team, who determines things like promotion and, if applicable, the lifespan of the series. 

To sum up, a publishing house editor is a manager, a teacher, and your biggest cheerleader. 

For you yet-to-be published or self-published writers, is what an editor does different than what you thought? For traditionally published writers, is this different than your experience with your editor?  


KORINA MOSS is the author of the Cheese Shop Mystery series set in the Sonoma Valley, including the Agatha Award winner for Best First Novel, Cheddar Off Dead and the Agatha Award finalist for Best Contemporary Novel, Case of the Bleus. Her books have been featured in USA Today, PARADE Magazine, Woman’s World, AARP, and Fresh Fiction. Book 5 in the series, Fondue or Die, arrives on October 22nd. To learn more or sign up for her free monthly newsletter, visit her website at korinamossauthor.com.  

You can preorder Korina's next book, Fondue or Die, for 25% off online at Barnes & Noble with code PREORDER25 now through July 17th with a free or premium B&N membership. 

Saturday, July 13, 2024

For the Love of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle’s Sleuth Reincarnated on the Small Screen

By Lisa Malice, Ph.D.

If you’re like me, you learned to love mysteries from your parents. My first exposure came about when my family outgrew our Sunday night viewing of The Wonderful World of Disney and replaced it with The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie (1971-1977). With sleuths rotating through the weekly series lineup, my family followed Columbo, McCloud, and MacMillan & Wife catch the bad guys, though my favorite was—and still is—The Snoop Sisters, starring the incomparable Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as two gray-haired mystery-writing busybody sisters who use their sleuthing skills to help their police detective nephew (Bert Convy) solve real-life murders. 

Sunday nights during the summer were spent driving home from the family cabin listening to The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. The radio plays, broadcast 1974-1982, were engaging, suspenseful, well-acted, capturing our attention and imagination of the scenes, characters, actions, murders, and motives. (You can access these wonderful radio shows via www.CBSRMT.com.)

These shows captivated my young mind, prompting me to start reading mysteries, ones I pulled off my mother's vast shelves of books. She read the masters of British Mystery--Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, and others, and I followed suit. But as my high school studies focused more on science and math, I found myself under the spell of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic deerstalker-capped sleuth fascinated me with his vast wealth of knowledge, mastery of logic, and keen abilities of observation and deduction to identify a murderer, his or her motive, weapon of choice, and how the deed was done. I used my paper route earnings to buy my own hard-bound copy of The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes: 37 Short Stories and a complete novel from The Strand Magazine by Arthur Conan Doyle (1976), complete with all 356 original illustrations. With more than 600 pages, the book kept me reading night after night when I was supposed to be asleep. I still have the thick tome in my personal library.

Nowadays, I always have a good crime story on my nightstand, but my days also start out with a daily dose of mystery at the gym, eyes glued to my tablet as I watch an episode of my latest (rarely current) tour of murder while sweating away on the elliptical machine. Just the suspense is often enough to keep my heart-rate elevated. My brain cells get a work-out, too, matching wits with fictional detectives which wield powers of observation and deduction to rival that of Holmes. Apart from obvious portrayals of Doyle’s iconic characters, such Elementary (starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson), TV producers and screenwriters have filled the broadcast spectrum with a variety of Sherlockian adaptations. Each sleuth has a unique backstory, personality quirks, and entourages that round out the series bible.  

The most renowned, award-winning of these series is Monk (2002-2009). The story revolves around Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub), a former San Francisco police detective on the autism spectrum, whose wife’s unsolved murder exacerbated his obsessive-compulsive and phobic tendencies. The local Homicide Chief (and Monk’s best friend) tolerates Monk’s idiosyncrasies to take advantage of the private detective’s heightened sense of observation and keen deductive intellect in solving some of the city’s most perplexing and high-profile murder cases. Monk’s female assistants serve as his Watson, always by his side to help when needed. The show is both humorous (the producers’ vision for the often-bumbling character was Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame) and dramatic, especially as the eighth and final season winds-down with Monk finally solving his wife’s murder and bringing the culprit to justice.

A wackier version of Doyle’s detective is Psych’s Shawn Spencer (James Roday), whose powers of observation – drilled into him during his formative years by his cop father (Corbin Bernsen) -- feed into his eidetic memory. He passes himself off as a psychic detective, showing up the local Santa Barbara police detectives in closing their cases, while earning just enough to live the life of an adult who never wanted to grow up. His best friend, a straight-arrow pharmaceutical sales rep, Gus (Dule Hill), serves as Shawn’s reluctant Watson. The popular show with a talented ensemble cast ran for eight seasons then followed up with TV movies (more are promised – hooray!).


Currently, I’m watching The Mentalist, which centers on Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), a man whose keen abilities (hypnosis, observation, deduction) allowed him to pass himself off as a psychic. After the murders of his wife and daughter, he devotes his talents as a consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in solving high-profile murders. Each episode begins with Patrick tagging along with the CBI Homicide Unit to a high-profile crime scene – a dead body covered by a sheet. A quick examination of the body, a look around at the area, are usually enough for Patrick to deduce the cause of death, whether the crime happened (if in question), and a clue to the victim’s identity (when it is uncertain). Patrick’s mentalist capabilities make him a skilled interrogator with the ability to mesmerize reluctant witnesses into spilling the beans and murderers into revealing their guilt.


I’m also a fan of ABC’s Elsbeth, which is now filming its second season. Carrie Preston stars as a Sherlockian attorney, a court-ordered observer of NYPD Homicide, who draws on her singular point of view to make unique observations the detectives often overlook. Her astute deductive abilities allow Elsbeth to ID the real villain fairly quickly (rather than the suspect that the cops like for the crime). Like the series that drew me into mysteries and made Peter Falk a household name, Columbo, Elsbeth, is an inverted detective show—a howtocatch’em vs. a whodunit—and a joy to watch.

Do you have a favorite TV version of Sherlock Holmes? 

Tell us about the show and its master detective.


Friday, July 12, 2024

 

Expanding Your Writing Resources

by Heather Weidner



 Recently an author asked me how to find book bloggers and podcasters because he had a book launch coming up. My advice to writers is to start this process early and not to wait until you’re about to launch your book. You need to grow your network of resources as an ongoing process. Here are some things that have worked for me.

  • Most bookbloggers, bookstagrammers, and podcasters do what they do because they love the topic and interacting with others. It’s not good form to reach out or start following someone a week or so before your launch and then contact them for a favor. A lot of these folks have a very full calendar, and they book MONTHS in advance. As you build your author platform and your network, it’s always good to interact with them, know what they feature on their sites, and know their preferences e.g. do they want a physical ARC (Advance Reader Copy) or an electronic one? You should build relationships with book influencers (e.g. like, share, and comment on their posts). Don’t just show up when you want someone to help you publicize your book.
  • Always be professional. You are your brand. Make it easy for people. Follow the submission instructions, provide all the information they requested, and have your press kit (bio, photos, book cover, book links) ready and organized.
  • Start a list, spreadsheet, or other electronic file to build your contacts. A book launch is a massive event. You need to keep good notes of your contacts, what you owe them, and deadlines. I have a giant spreadsheet where I have tabs for each type of resource, their contact information, and notes. I also have a calendar to show deadlines and key dates before and after my book launches. When you’re a guest, you need to make sure you share the interview on your social sites.
  • Find out who is out there and who is an influencer in your genre. This takes some research time.
  • See where other authors in your genre advertise their books. What events or interviews do they participate in? When I see interesting services or events, I add them to my spreadsheet.
  • Use hashtags on social sites to find people who like/follow a topic. You can look for topics like #bookblogger, #podcast, #bookstagrammer, #cozymystery, etc. When you find interesting people, follow them and interact.
  • Join writers’ groups. All of the groups that I’m a member of have bulletin boards, Facebook groups, or Slack sites for questions and recommendations. Find your crew. Networking is easier when you know people who share recommendations.
  • Volunteer. You meet so many people with great stories, ideas, and connections. So many writing conferences and organizations are always looking for people to help. It’s a great way to meet others and to help out a cause.

What other ideas or suggestions would you add to my list?

 Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She writes the Pearly Girls Mysteries, the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, The Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, and The Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries.

 


Thursday, July 11, 2024

Thoughts and Impressions after a College Reunion

 


                                                        by Margaret S. Hamilton    

 


College green and reunion tents

When the reminder magnet for my upcoming Connecticut College reunion arrived in the mail, I slapped it on the refrigerator and considered attending. Between soccer tournaments, high school and college graduations and the weddings of two of our children, I hadn’t had time to attend a reunion in many years.



 

I didn’t have close college friends who planned to attend, but I had a writer friend I’d never met face to face, Shari Randall, a fellow CC graduate and New London resident. Shari and I “met” when I joined the Writers Who Kill blog in 2016. We agreed it was time and started coordinating plans.

 


Shari's favorite grove of Japanese Maples


“It will be fun,” I assured my husband. “We’ll meet people.” The fifty English majors in my graduating class all knew each other from our Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Elizabethan poetry classes. “We’ll stay in the dorms and walk everywhere.”

New London Superior Court

 

Once at the college, we spent hours hiking in the college arboretum and visiting the botanical garden. We took a tour of historic New London, including a ride in a water taxi on the Thames (rhymes with James) River, where I had rowed on the crew team. The submarines on the nearby base were still as large and terrifying as they were when we rowed next to them.

 

A double transformed into a triple


We stayed in a dorm with updated bathrooms, the original cinderblock walls covered with sheetrock. Tall trees outside our dorm window were filled with birds that tuned in at five a.m. (the sun rises an hour earlier on the east coast).

 

college athletic complex next to the Thames


When it was time for our class photo, we were asked to leave the dining room and assemble on the library steps. We all headed out the back door of Palmer Library and turned toward the front of the building. Wrong building! The college has a new library constructed behind the old one, though we agreed that “our” library would always be Palmer, where we were assigned our carrels senior year.

 


During our time at the college, the English Department was housed in Thames Hall, a ramshackle shingled building with a huge fieldstone fireplace, the original refectory from the college’s 1911 founding. It was freezing in winter, with a jumble of classrooms added on to the original structure. Faculty offices were at the top of a creaky set of stairs. It was demolished in 1990 and replaced by a similar building used for administrative offices. My fellow English majors were devastated to discover its demise. We had left our metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears in our exam bluebooks and term papers.

 


On Saturday, Shari scooped us up from campus and we headed to one of her favorite places, Harkness Memorial Park. The Harkness estate in Waterford, now owned by the State of Connecticut, has a mansion, sweeping lawns, and formal gardens overlooking Long Island Sound. What do two former CC English majors and current crime fiction writers talk about? Anything and everything, from our undergraduate classes and professors to agents and contracts. Our kids, travels, and gardens.

 


We dropped by the original New London cemetery to search for my ancestor Jonas Hamilton’s grave (d. 1738) and that of his wife, Elizabeth Wickwire, who was from a New London family. Their son, Jonathan, emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1759 with the New England Planters. The Hamilton family stayed in Nova Scotia until my great-grandfather’s move to New Haven, CT in the 1870s.

 


I was recruited by the Connecticut College dean of admissions during a field hockey game at my small Cincinnati high school. I had my interview wearing shin guards and team tunic, clutching my hockey stick. Nineteen hundred students on a beautiful Connecticut campus sounded just right. And it was.

 


Readers and writers, have you attended a college reunion?

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

AI In The Writing World by E. B. Davis

 

NO AI TRAINING: Without in any way limiting the author’s and Beyond the Page’s

exclusive rights under copyright, any use of this publication to “train” generative

artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate text is expressly prohibited.

The author reserves all rights to license uses of this work for generative AI

training and development of machine learning language models.

Beyond the Page Books Copyright Content

 

Recently, I downloaded several books published by Beyond the Page Books and noticed that they had added this paragraph on their copyright pages. It is an attempt to prohibit AI companies from using copyrighted material for their databases from which AI models learn. I like this approach and yet, the reality is that the wave has already broken. Books have already been fed to AI.

 

The Authors Guild is trying to lobby for laws that will force AI companies to get:

·      Permission for use of copyrighted works, if permission is granted—get compensation for their use,

·      Disclosure by AI companies as to what works they have used for training, and to require AI generated work be labeled as such.

 

Further, for those authors who don’t care if AI companies use their work, The Authors Guild proposes a “collective management organization” through which companies would compensate authors via collective licensing. All authors who register would be compensated collectively rather than each AI company having to contact each individual author for consent and compensation. This approach seems like capitulation to me, making it too easy for AI companies. And yet, since theft is rampant, perhaps it is realistic. And the one thing I’ve learned from reading about these issues—once AI trains from a work, there is no taking back that learning. Read about The Authors Guild’s efforts here: https://authorsguild.org/advocacy/artificial-intelligence/faq/

 

Last year, The Authors Guild and many best-selling authors filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft’s Azure project for copyright infringement. It appears that the case is ongoing so there is no disposition to report at this time.

 

Hal 9000: Hello Dave https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/movies/hal-2001-a-space-odyssey-voice-douglas-rain.html

 

What prompted me to write and read about this issue? In one week, I read three books having a character named “Maya.” I realize after reading the literature that the president of The Authors Guild’s name happens to be Maya Shanbhag Lang. But the name wasn’t common to me. And then after additional research I realized that Maya is a big name in the AI world. There is an AI program for media and entertainment called Autodesk Maya. Their advertising says:  Create expansive worlds, complex characters, and dazzling effects.” The product is mainly used for creating 3d animation (Barbie). There’s an AI Maya that tracks workflow in businesses, which is applied in everything from travel itinerary, doctor’s patient scheduling, real estate transactions to selling lemonade (no kidding).

My speculation is that the ChatGPT for authors may be on a head trip and decided it was the most fascinating and quirky personality—so it generated its own name to wow readers—Maya! After the second book with the name “Maya” as one of the characters, I was suspicious, but after the third time in the same week—I decided my reading material wasn’t up to par. Don’t even think of creating an animi for your Internet picture. I will not buy your book. And yes, two of the three books I downloaded via Kindle Unlimited.

I have turned off Siri on my iPhone and MacBook Pro and individually on every app. If Siri learns about me, it will limit my search results, second guessing me and filtering true results. By putting this program on my devices, Apple controls my access to knowledge. Browsers themselves, such as Google’s Gemini, have built in learning that limits results. For now, I can at least turn Siri off, but there are programs or apps that you buy, such as MS Word 365 in which Copilot is an integral component, which can’t be turned off. This is where the big power-shift of the future will occur, if it hasn’t already. Those in control of the IT world will have ways to bypass the filters. Our freedoms are eroding by these hidden AI programs. Tomorrow is the US’s Independence Day. We need to do more to make sure we remain independent. AI will erode our freedom. Our access to knowledge has been fundamental in equality. AI limits our access. Laws such as labeling what is AI generated will help. Educating our populace about the AI invasion and giving us fundamental rights to combat it will be our only way to fight it. 

I have a piece of painting tape over my laptop’s camera eye. It works. On Zoom I was just a blue blur. I’ve turned off my laptop’s camera and microphone. I also have my laptop on mute. Is anyone else scared?

See: https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2024/02/artificial-intelligence-have-we-created.html