February 6, 2023

Artificial Creativity: The Making of a Book Cover with AI Art

I recently shared my perspective on AI as an author on this website. When I got a newsletter from an author friend of mine, I was amazed by the new covers they had created for one of their book series. Later, I learned they used Midjourney to help create the artwork on the cover.

Thoroughly inspired, I decided that I needed to make my own cover using AI design tools. At first, I was tempted to create a new design for my upcoming novel Memory Clear; however, the novel already has a gorgeous cover. Also, I’m squeamish about the copyright discussion going on right now about generative art and didn’t want to jump directly into using an AI design on a commercial work. I decided that my free short story, “Jennifer 2.0” (get your copy here!), deserved a makeover, and its cover would be the perfect vehicle for me to try out AI art for book covers.

The Process


Midjourney creates stunning images. It also has the capability of making portrait images that are the correct aspect ratio for a book cover. Therefore, I went to Discord and started feeding Midjourney some prompts.

First, I tried:

twenty-five-year-old woman and her clone standing in a sterile room



Something about the images felt a little too retro to me, so I tried something else.

future woman and her clone standing in a sterile room



Instead of nurses’ caps, these women wore bubbles on their heads. Odd, but not terrible. The two left images didn’t include strange headwear. The top-left women looked especially creepy, so I gave them a pass. I do like the bottom-left image, so I had Midjouney upscale it to make the base of my new cover.


(I also tried having Midjourney upscale this image to maximum resolution, but the results looked strange and decidedly un-lifelike.)

The vertical metal bar through the doorway confused me, so I removed it and patched the two sides together in photoshop. I also darkened the bottom of the image and a strip near the top to help the text that would go there pop. Then I just found a cool font to use and placed the title and my name in a bright orange, added an outline and drop-shadow to the text, and tada! I was done!


I really like how this cover turned out! It’s got a creepy sense of unease that the original cover didn’t capture.

I’m curious to see how trends in book covers will change as AI art becomes more prolific and accessible. There’s a lot of copyright consideration that needs to be ironed out, so you won’t find AI art covers on my books for sale until then. I predict that we’ll see more and more indie books with covers featuring AI art, and I bet more authors will try to design their own covers. Hopefully, these tools will help improve the overall quality of indie book covers. Or, perhaps we’ll see an influx of new books plastered with bad AI art. Regardless, I’m excited to see what future this technology will bring!

January 30, 2023

Build Your Writing Community

Image created by Midjourney

Writing can be a lonely and solitary activity, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve found that building a community of writers around me has helped. Although my work isn’t collaborative, it’s better after getting workshopped by my critique group. More importantly, I’ve grown as a writer because of my interactions and friendships with fellow writers. They’ve been helpful and supportive to me, and I enjoy sharing my expertise and being there for them as well. Having some sort of writing community is so essential that if you’re a writer and don’t have a community around you yet, I implore you to join one right now.

Go Online

The first place to look for fellow writers is online. There are great writer forums and discussion groups on Reddit, Facebook, Discord, and other platforms. These groups are typically easy to get into, and you’ll meet like-minded people worldwide. I found it reassuring to read about other writers' struggles similar to mine. When dealing with something unique, various writers could respond to my posts with their personal experiences related to mine and offer support.

There are also huge writing communities on social media websites like Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok. Follow other writers and post about your writing journey. These sites make it easy to host events like word sprints, book release parties, pitch wars, and other fun, collaborative writing activities.

The main caveat of online writing communities is that you only get out of it what you put in. You need to join and read the discussions, post about your writing, and participate in the events.

Join a Local Group

Online interactions are lovely, but I prefer meeting other writers in person. Although you can find local authors and start a new group, there are already great writing groups almost everywhere you can join. A good writing group will offer a variety of events, including critique groups, workshops, write-ins, and social gatherings.

Most states have prominent writers’ organizations you can join. I live in Maryland and am a Maryland Writers Association (MWA) member. Although it’s not year-round, NaNoWriMo organizes several in-person writing events all over the world, which are good ways to find your local community.

Getting Started

I recommend getting your feet wet by attending a write-in. People attend these gatherings to write alongside like-minded people while primarily working independently. Occasionally, people take a break from writing to catch up with each other and talk shop, but they are primarily there to work. Make sure to bring your laptop, a notebook, or whatever you use to write. If the write-in meets at a coffee shop or restaurant, be prepared to buy some food or drinks to help support the business.

Another good place to start is by attending a social event or book signing. These events are more casual and fun.

Join a Critique Group

When you’re ready to share your work, participating in a critique group is one of the best ways to improve your writing. Not only will you get valuable feedback on your manuscript and suggestions for improving it, but you’ll also have the opportunity to look at other writers' work to learn from their strengths and notice shared struggles. You may find that your critique group can help edit your work at the same level as a pricy developmental editor. If you plan on publishing your work, your critique group will help you polish your manuscript and save money on editing expenses (but not all—I still recommend hiring a professional editor).

Attend a Workshop

Many writing groups will also host workshops. Even if the subject matter is something you think you're familiar with, attending these will introduce you to new perspectives, broaden your writing knowledge, and equip you with new tools to be more productive and write better. Eventually, you may want to share your writing expertise and host your own workshop.

Network

Another key to building your writing community is networking. Building your network helps you meet new publishing professionals, expand your audience, and introduces you to new opportunities. Events like conventions, tradeshows, and book fairies are great places to meet other writers. You can purchase a table and sell books at these events, or you can go as an attendee. Either way, bring business cards (or cards with your contact information/social media handles) and reach out later to the new people you meet.

Don't Quit

Once you’ve built your writing community, you must take time to maintain those connections. Your association memberships won’t help if you don’t continue to attend workshops and participate in write-ins and critique groups. Even when you’re not writing a new project, you can still grow as a writer by critiquing other writers' work. The relationships you build will be there when you need help.

It’s no secret that things fell apart for me in 2020. My entire family went through an incredibly rough spot, and my writing group was a massive support. They were all extremely supportive in many ways—including practically—helping out with my house and kids. Even though we got together to support each other’s work, we’ve been there to support each other as people and friends. I’m so fortunate to have such wonderful, like-minded people in my life.

Final Thoughts

Your writing community is absolutely imperative to your success as a writer. Your community will help you edit, save money, stay accountable, grow, and network. Even more introverted individuals will benefit immensely from building their writing community.

If you’re at a total loss for where to start, then start by shooting me an email! I’d be happy to be a member of your writing community. Let’s grow together!

Email Beth Martin


Author’s note: Even though I used ChatGPT to assist in writing the outline for this post, The content and ideas presented here are all my own.

January 23, 2023

Roblox Games Worth Checking Out Today

Image created using Midjourney

I’m quickly coming up to my one-year anniversary of joining Roblox. I initially got into the game at the behest of my kids, and now I play it almost as much as they do. Not only is it a great online platform with family-friendly content, but it also has free and accessible tools for you to make your own game. I’m currently putting together a maze game where players can go complete mazes to earn trophies. When I’m not building and coding my own game, here are the primary games that I enjoy—and you should check out.

Adopt Me

Adopt Me is my favorite game by far, and for good reason! In the game, players raise and collect pets. You can also make families where some people play as parents and others play as babies. Although taking care of pets and babies is the core gameplay, you can also role-play in jobs, build and decorate houses, collect vehicles, and more.

My real-life cat gets jealous when I play this game. I imagine she’s asking, “Why would Mom play a game raising computer pets when she has me?” So, I typically find myself playing Adopt Me while also cuddling my kitty.

Start a Newspaper

…and get revenge! There are many Tycoon games on Roblox similar to start a newspaper. In start a newspaper, you build your news office in an old warehouse, hire friends to write articles, then deliver papers by grabbing them and taking them on your rusty bike to the post office.

Although this game is nothing like starting a newspaper, it touches my little publisher heart. The theming is super cute, and the game is overall really fun to play as you rush around to fill printers with ink, grab papers off the press, and watch the dramatic cut-scene of when you receive your bills in the mail.

Dig to OHIO

There is a trend right now of new games where players must dig a hole to a certain place. I guess Ohio is the current place kids like to make fun of. You play by throwing as many bombs at the ground as you can. As they blow away dirt, you place bombs lower and lower until you break through on the other side. Making it to your destination gets you points which you can use to buy better bombs.

Aside from the silly destination, Dig to OHIO is my favorite of the dig-a-hole style games. The rebirth system and store work well, and there are usually lots of other people playing, so you can work together to get to your destination faster.

Color Block

Who knew such a simple idea for a game could be so much fun? Kind of like the classic game Twister, the floor has blocks of different colors, and when a color is called, you need to move to that color. If you don’t move to a square with the correct color before time runs out, the squares without that color disappear, you fall, and you’re out. The player who makes it through the most rounds of play wins.

Considering that I don’t have the fastest hand/eye coordination, I actually do pretty well on Color Block. Plus, there are all kinds of different play modes, including low gravity, underwater, and unicorn.

Mall Tycoon

Not only does this game allow you to build and customize your own mall, but you can also explore the shopping center you and your friends build. Some stores will let you try new hairstyles, put on a suit, sample shampoo—which makes bubbles appear constantly around your head, and wear accessories. By the time you finish browsing the mall, your character will be decked out with their new wares and likely look absolutely ridiculous. Just beware of getting a bad massage at the massage parlor: your character will walk slower and hunched over until you log back in!


There are many other games on the Roblox platform that I play. I typically go through phases where I’ll play a specific game a bunch and then won’t play it again for a while. I definitely went through a YouTube Simulator phase and a short Bloxy Bingo obsession. I’ll update again when I’m ready to launch my maze game, although that might not be for a while.

 

January 17, 2023

New Short Story and Plans for 2023

Happy New Year, 2023!

I’m the kind of person who gets excited for the new year and new beginnings. I have so many plans and goals for 2023 and wanted to share a few of them.

First of all, I wrapped up 2022 by publishing my short story "Inter Reality". It’s a fun and thought-provoking piece that follows a woman who wakes up every day in a different reality. Currently, you can snag a copy from Amazon or Apple Books.

I’m ecstatic to finally announce my next novel, Memory Clear, which will release in spring 2023. Marco Sinclair is a scientist who developed a drug that erases targeted memories. In the opening of Memory Clear, Marco has just discovered an antidote that reverses the effect of the memory-erasing drug, allowing the person who takes it to recall all of their forgotten memories. When Marco takes his antidote, tons of events from the past flood his consciousness, forcing him to reconcile with events of the past and the unscrupulous man he has become.

I have finished writing Memory Clear and am in the middle of edits. I’ve already scheduled my editor, so this book will come out this year.

Another project I’m working on, which I should be able to publish this year, is the next Puzzling Escapes adventure. I’ve already been working on this book for a while and had to set it aside a few times, but I plan to wrap it up and have it ready for a fall release. This one is a little different from the previous books. All the current Puzzling Escapes books have the reader trapped in a scenario. For the next one, the reader will be traveling the world as they try to solve the mystery of a lost diamond.

For a while now, I’ve been drawing mazes as a hobby. My hand-drawn ones are pretty simple, but I had the idea of making a hedge maze video game on Roblox. Typically, I’m pretty terrible at video games, so I joke that the only video game I really enjoy playing is one suited for children. But in reality, Roblox is a lot of fun, and I have a blast playing games with my kids. Creating games for Roblox is a little more accessible to someone like me who has limited coding knowledge/experience. The studio tools also make it super easy to build environments, and my new maze game is really coming together.

I have more plans, hopes, and dreams for 2023, but I’ll stop here before I get ahead of myself. Aside from attending Richmond Galaxy Con, I don’t have concrete event plans in place. I’ll get into why that is a bit in the future! Until then, let’s enjoy the promises of another new year.