RSS

Tag Archives: speculative fiction

An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

A year ago today, I set off on a four week cross-country trip alone, visiting the high plains town I grew up in, the mountain cabin I wrote my first short story in and spending days at Burning Man. It was an amazing trip. Now, probably because I just finished season 3 of The Good Place, I’m fascinated with unintended and even unexpected consequences. It’s no surprise, that trip had many.

One of them was meeting someone who’s mother lived in my hometown in North Carolina. Months later, the mom and I met to share a glass of wine. We discovered we both loved science fiction, and by the end of the conversation (and the bottle of wine) we were talking about attending Worldcon 2019 together in Dublin. I’m still not sure how our conversation got there.

And yet, here we are. You gotta love how things sometimes work out.

This is my first worldcon, and hers, and we’ve both selected a non-stop itinerary for five days of panels and workshops and readings by author’s we like and, well, we’ll see just how much of this actually works out…

I’ve also volunteered for a few things, and it looks like that will keep this all interesting. I’ll be helping out at the Science Fiction Writers Association reception on Thursday and their table on Friday. I’ll be handing out worldcon volunteer assignments in the staff lounge three of the days. Most exciting of all, I’ve signed up to help with the stage crew of the opening ceremony and the Hugo awards which will be given out Sunday night.

My specific assignment? I’m going to get to run one of the spotlights! For some bizarre reason, I find this very exciting.

I’ll be posting more as the week goes on …

Read more at And the winner, she is …., at Feeling at home , at Forward into the Past and at A New Irish Experience.

 

 

 

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 14, 2019 in being better, other authors, travel, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Would this ad work for you?

There is something more difficult than creating that first draft of a work of fiction, at least for me. It’s called writing an ad. Yet I am as determined to market my new novels as I was to create them. I just have no feel for it.

So, I did what any of you would advise. I talked to experts. (Or at least to people who were successful at marketing their own books and willing to talk to me.) They had a lot of great advice, particularly about what to bother with and what to ignore. I consolidated their opinions into this:

Go with Kindle Select no matter how much you don’t want to, and put your time and money into advertising on Amazon and Facebook.

This was simple enough. I could do it.

They advised I buy and read the books they’d turned to. I bought them all. Two were on writing advertising copy, one was on how to use Facebook to sell books, and the other on using Amazon. I’ve read them, pretty much cover to cover now. With notes. And highlighters. I’m very thorough.

I started with Amazon Lock Screen Ads. My first ad is at the top of this post. It got 5,418 impressions which seemed like a lot to me but my books tell me it is woefully inadequate. 16 wonderful people clicked on it, none of them bought it, and I spent $2.26. I was fine with this as learning exercise.

I tried again. This time I tried to be more witty. Maybe I was. I only got 5026 impressions, but 63 people clicked on this one. Four times as many clicks cost me $11.47 and no one bought it. This was a slightly more expensive lesson on the learning curve.

My third attempt was wildly successful. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t target every genre and category I could possibly fit into. I only targeted women’s fiction and I wrote the ad for the audience. I got 98,215 impressions, and 439 clicks. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I want sales, not attention. All those clicks cost me $63.30 and as far as Amazon can tell, I made one sale from this. Yup, I spent sixty some dollars to make two. Not good.

I did get a bunch of page reads through Kindle Select all of the sudden, so maybe I picked up an extra ten or twenty dollars there. I’m not going to last long spending sixty to make twenty, though.

I decided the careful targeting of one group at a time could be the secret sauce I was seeking, so I created a bunch of ads designed to appeal to every subgroup I could think of. None did very well, but my absolute worst was this ad designed to appeal to readers of Literature & Fiction: Action & Adventure and Mystery, and to Thriller & Suspense: Kidnapping and Paranormal. (It’s not so far fetched. The book is about two telepaths rescuing a kidnapped sister.)

It got five impressions. Period. No clicks at all. The good news is it didn’t cost me anything.

My creative campaign didn’t even show a version for Kindle Fire. I can’t tell if it is because it did so poorly, or it did so poorly because it was never shown on Kindle Fire. (If anyone knows how this works, please tell me!)

Back I went to more generic ads. My next most successful one was an exact repeat of an earlier ad, targeting pretty much the same groups. But it managed 16,829 impressions and 43 clicks. Why?

It also never showed an ad version for Kindle Fire. Why not?

The most exciting part was that I managed to sell another whole book and this time I only spent $19.08 to do it. Wahoo. With the Kindle page reads, I could be approaching breaking even.

Of course, breaking even is not the point. I am determined to keep at this, figure out what works and why and find a way to actually make money.

For more about my Amazon advertising adventures see “How about this ad?

 

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 5, 2019 in being better, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s About What You Believe

kind2I learned to love Kurt Vonnegut decades ago, based on reading only six of his earliest and most famous works. Much later, I tried to read Breakfast of Champions and couldn’t get through it. I never even tried his later novels. He’d changed. I’d changed. Or maybe, I’d just gotten from him the one message that I most needed to hear.

For all that I loved his cynicism and his humor, this one quote was it. The words have stuck with me through decades of living.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” — God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

That’s right. All that wit and imagination of his, and this was my main take-away. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that was disrespectful, although I think Mr. Vonnegut wouldn’t have minded a bit.

I’m attempting to summarize what I do believe in and it’s been an interesting exercise. Am I dying soon? Planing to run for public office? No, neither. I just really liked the movie “Wonder Woman” and it got me thinking.

What do I believe in so strongly that I want it to shape my behavior?

At this point, you might be concerned that too much of my personal philosophy comes from science fiction, but I’ll argue back. Stories of a speculative nature throw out a lot of societal constraints found in other frameworks, making it a fine realm in which to develop one’s code of ethics. It is absolutely where I have developed mine.

And I have the fictional Eliot Rosewater to thank for my most central belief. If I can’t be anything else, I want to be kind.

 

 
9 Comments

Posted by on July 15, 2017 in being better, other authors

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The trouble with telepathy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with telepathy. Writing about it, understanding it, using technology to develop it, and how humans would respond to it.

My recent fascination was prompted by an article in Popular Mechanics called Brain-to-Brain Communication Is Closer Than You Think. Lest you decide that Popular Mechanics has taken an unexpected new age turn, let me point out that the subtitle of the article is “Don’t call it telepathy, but call it very cool.”

The article describes a successful experiment in which a video game player wearing an electroencephalography cap (which records brain activity) decides when to shoot, and a second player in another room wearing a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil (which emits a focused electrical current) over the part of his brain that controls finger movement, does the actual shooting.

Researcher Chantel Prat at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and one of the designers of the experiment cautions that “This is not the X-Men version of telepathy where you hear a disembodied voice. … Whatever shape [this] takes is going to be very different than listening to someone’s thoughts in your head.”

magicYes, it may not be the classic telepathy of fiction, but we are talking about direct brain to brain communication here, aided by modern technology. The article goes on to address possible real life uses including already successful work on adapting a brain-to-machine interface to help paralyzed patients walk by using their brain signals to control prosthetic devices. This is cool, and it is really happening.

It reminded me of an article I read a while back about how neuroscientists have recreated movie clips by looking at a person’s brainwaves. It also reminded me of the waves made by Mark Zuckerberg in 2015 when he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

He was referring to an advanced form of this sort of brain-to-brain communication, using something like a VR headset to encode brain signals into bits and send them to another person for decoding and playback. You can read more about this in my post Telepathy and Technology, where I quote The Washington Post as responding with “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges.” True. Cool things like this tend to have a ton of implications that we haven’t considered.

The second thing to set my synapses firing about mind reading was hearing about Connie Willis’s new book Crosstalk. I haven’t read it yet for a few reasons, one of which is that I’m not that big a fan of her writing based on To Say Nothing of the Dog, her one book I have read. But that was written twenty years ago and it’s time to give this science fiction great another chance.

ganzfeldThen I read an interview with her in Wired. The quote that got me was “Willis does enjoy writing about the paranormal, but as far as she’s concerned it’s pure fiction. For her new novel Crosstalk, a romantic comedy about telepathy, she did extensive research into the history of psychic claims, including the notorious Rhine experiments. ‘I found no evidence at all of actual telepathy,’ she says. ‘I don’t buy it.'”

A lot of people would agree with her. However, I was put off by her tone. How odd to write a book about an ability and yet to harbor no feel for how it could be possible, and no sense of “maybe, if ….” to help bring the magic to life. I probably will read Crosstalk eventually, but now I’m in less of a hurry to do so.

However, Ms. Willis does make an interesting observation in the interview. She says “Let’s say telepathy became the norm … the first thing that people would begin to do would be to attempt to stop that, for themselves at least. They would try to build barriers, mental barriers or physical barriers—I don’t know, tinfoil hats maybe or something—that would prevent other people from being able to read their thoughts … I don’t think most relationships could survive if you knew virtually everything that flitted through the head of your partner.” Good point, In fact, a very good point.

And this brings me to the third reason why telepathy is heavy on my mind these days. I’m finishing a book of my own, the sixth book in 46. Ascending, and it is revisiting my hero Lola and her organization of telepaths. Obviously new problems have arisen, including the discovery of non-empathic telepaths, once thought to be impossible. As my heroes and villains go to increasing lengths to keep each other out of their heads, I’m forced to confront just how difficult day-to-day life would be in a world where telepathy is common. It’s forced me to revisit my own world-building, and to better define my own fictional ideas about what telepathy is.

I’ve had to conclude that while technologically aided brain-to-brain communication is cool, is likely, and poses dangers, it is not what I am writing about. I’m also trying not to write about X-men style sentences popping unbidden into the heads of others. Rather, I’m playing with the idea of extreme empathy. I postulate emotional connections between skilled receivers that enable the exchange of ideas without words or machines, and I’m having some fun finding the charms and the limits of my particular theories.

Do I believe in them? I tell people that I’m a scientist first, and a writer of science fiction second. To me, being a scientist means believing that any thing is possible. It also means knowing that while many things are highly improbable, the universe has a way of surprising us, no matter how much we think we already know.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 7, 2017 in telepathy, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wise and quiet

Days aren’t what they used to be. About a year ago, I did the math and decided that If really wanted to, I could retire. I was a little young to do so, and of course one can always use the extra money from working longer. But my husband, who is a few years older, was a retired teacher already and I was discovering that being employed is harder when your spouse no longer is. Besides, I have this crazy dream of writing more speculative fiction, much more speculative fiction in fact, and I was beginning to realize that was only going to happen if I didn’t have to go into an office every day and try to figure out seismic signals bouncing up from the earth. I was ready to be an early retiree.

Psychedelic 13So I gave my notice at work, and we sold our house and moved, and I woke up in a strange new place with boxes everywhere and spent about a whole month unpacking and tying to get my arms around what sort of life I now had. All my reference points were gone, and I was far too discombobulated to post a blog, much less to write fiction. Hell, I could hardly sleep or eat. In spite of a fair amount of careful planning, this was not the dream life for which I had hoped. Nothing, other than the slowly shrinking mess of boxes, was wrong. But nothing was right either and I didn’t even know why.

Something deep inside us knows what we need. Apparently, I needed yoga. I already have a little daily qigong routine I do, and that practice helped keep me grounded through the house sale and the move. But once I arrived in a strange place and found myself with no job and no schedule, I seem to have overloaded my circuits well beyond what my solitary qigong sessions could handle. So I spontaneously signed up for a monthly all-the-yoga-classes-you-care-to-attend program in the small town that is my new home, and it probably saved my sanity.

wise and quietIt got me to breathe slowly. It got me to sit with other people who were breathing slowly. It gave me a reason to bathe and go into town and know what time it was. And, thanks to several wonderful instructors, it gave me bits of wisdom to ponder.

When I wrote x0 four years ago, I had very little idea about how to write a novel. I only knew that I was compelled to tell this story, the tale of two women who shared a special gift. In the world of x0, everyone broadcasts their emotions all the time. Only the gifted can receive that information. Only the very gifted become telepaths, because they are the ones who have the rare ability to listen well. My two heroes were gifted because they knew how to listen.

During a yoga class last week, the instructor encouraged us to be wise enough to listen to our inner selves, and to let our minds be quiet enough to hear. I decided right there on my yoga mat that this advice needed to be carried further. I needed to be wise enough to listen in general, and quiet enough to hear that which was worth hearing. I was overcome with believing that this wonderful advice was good for writers, good for would-be telepaths, good for yogis and very good for newly retired people. In fact, it is probably wonderful advice for everyone.

For one thing, if you listen, you will hear what you need to hear. Like in my case, when I heard that I needed to listen more.

(For more thoughts on retiring early and pursuing a dream, see my posts If you’re going to be an old car, Am I a Shape Shifter Now? and Greener Grass.)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 16, 2015 in telepathy, writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

it grows and grows

4 coversI’m building a world. It’s very much like the world we live in, but the differences are what make it worth visiting. In my special universe, there is a growing number of telepaths, working as agents of empathy. They belong to an organization known as x0, and its members rescue and train others as they work for world peace.

There is also one very unique shape shifter, whose friends each celebrate their own uniqueness in an organization called y1. Meanwhile an aging athlete has formed a group known as z2 for those who are able to slow down time, or who are trying to understand the nature of time better.

Now there is another secret organization, with a power and mission all of its own. Please consider visiting the universe of c3 in late December, and join a teenager from Texas as she comes to terms with a skill set unlike any other.

#SFWApro

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in empathy, my other novels

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Seeing as how you’re going to have a little wire running into your brain anyway ….

One of the problems of writing speculative fiction, I suppose, is that reality has a way of getting weirder than the stuff you make up. So I’m going on about how amazing telepathy would be and how it would work ……. and then ….

glasses1. My son sends me this link to check out google glass …. a technology he describes as both fascinating and frightening.  No question he has a point.  In the end, why bother with the glasses? He may be squeamish about having an implant in his head someday, but I bet that the generation that comes after him by and large won’t be. More entertainment and information faster, brighter and better?  I think we’ve already proved as a species how we respond to that.

2. My news feed (yes I embrace all this better brighter information too, although I think in the end I do refuse the implant) just threw up a story in Science about lab rats who have successfully had their brains wired together.  What one rats learns can be transmitted by direct wire to the other.  Turns out that the other rat listens better if he gets a treat for doing so (big surprise) but basically they can communicate pretty well with what the researchers call a BTBI (brain to brain interface).

ratNot a big step to set these rats up with little wireless transmitters, is it? Then they can walk around talking to each other like all those obnoxious people in the grocery store checking in with their wives to see if they should get 1% or 2% milk.  Only there are no vocal chords involved. One rat learns something and sends it straight to the others brain  It’s like …. it’s like …. yes folks, we have telepathy.  If we’re lucky, it can use the same implant that’s giving us that wonderful feed from Google.

At least the dairy aisle in the grocery store will be a little quieter. It could be an improvement over cell phones.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 4, 2013 in telepathy

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: