Saturday, March 11, 2023

Microfiction: One Last Toast

Microfiction used to scare me to death. How can someone encapsulate and entire story in so few words??? But giving it a try, I learned how many words are NOT needed to convey an idea.

This miniature sci-fi piece was written for LegendFire's 100 Weekly Contest. 100 words, no more, no less. Prompt words: light, stable, bar. First published in LF's Compendium, 2021. 

(Click image to enlarge and read more easily.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

MidJourney: Banned Words & Creepy Images

 To follow up on my previous post about MidJourney:

I'm learning the ins and outs of the AI's language. Sometimes I have no idea what the commands mean that I'm using but they produce fabulous results. And just because some words are banned from the AI's engine doesn't mean it won't produce some seriously disturbing stuff.

Lately, I'm considering writing a short story involving the Native American legend of the wendigo, a monster that personifies insatiable hunger and greed. So I plugged Ojibwe teach/scholar Basil H. Johnston's description of the the wendigo into the MidJourney's prompt window:

The Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly over its bones. With its bones pushing out against its skin, its complexion the ash-gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, the Wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody ... Unclean and suffering from suppuration of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.

"Flesh" and "bloody" are banned words, so I removed them, but the AI accepted the rest and returned the following creepy results:

Whew, is that fun or what?

I found it interesting that most of the images had horns. I had to specify "--no horns" or "horns ::-2" for the latter image to pop. After researching the wendigo a bit I learned that later interpretations, after Europeans brought their own legends from the Old World, horns started showing up in descriptions of the monster. Why is any scholar's guess. And I'm sure there are some fairly good guesses out there.

Hmm, now to go enjoy ... lunch.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Mega Distraction: MidJourney

I have discovered MidJourney, the AI art generator. One of my favorite hobbies is to use GIMP to create imagery -- or try to. MJ makes the process a joy because I never know what I'm gonna get. And I get to PAINT WITH WORDS! I went through my 25 freebie generations in two days. By that time I was hooked, so I subscribed. 

Once I studied up on tutorials and learned the commands, I started generating ideas for book covers. The goal is to release new editions of past works on multiple platforms instead of just on Amazon Kindle. After several terrible results, MJ finally got what I was talking about and produced a glowing white lute for Sanjen's stories, and a dramatic battle ground with standing stones for the Falcons Saga, and a stylized image of a woman in the Sahara for my WIP.

But my prompts are definitely pushing MJ's limits. It has a real problem with birds. I want it to create images of falcons, right? "Falcons" is prominent in the prompt, but MJ is giving me hawks, eagles, birds with hawk bodies and pigeon heads, birds with funky-shaped talons, sometimes with three feet, or two feet with six twisty toes, sometimes a bird with one wing, or a bird with one gorgeous wing and one weird half-wing. It's been hilarious and frustrating. An otherwise gorgeous usable image will be ruined by one bizarre detail like this.

The latest fiasco (and most bizarre yet) was a gorgeous elven castle surrounded by fantastical trees (I was trying to get MJ to create Avidan Wood for a new cover for Blood of the Falcon), and the otherwise gorgeous image was ruined when MJ decided to put big block letters right in the middle of picture! This caused me to think it referenced someone else's promo image elsewhere on the web and arranged random letters in the same place. (see below)

No, no, no, you silly AI.

Point is, trying to create the perfect cover image by choosing the right words has been a glorious challenge, and I haven't written much on my WIP in the past week. Plus, now I've got a new LegendFire contest to work on, so MJ will have to go on the back burner.

Here are some of the bizarre results MJ gave me:

Why the nonsense letters in the middle, MJ??? This was perfect!

What is up with the bird on the left? Creepy eye and an irradiated left talon... tsk tsk.

Yet another attempt at bird anatomy. The falcon on the left is perfect, but for that weird right foot. While the bird on the right is somehow aloft with only half wing, and again with the random funky feet. I think there's an extra disembodied foot there somewhere...

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Microfiction: Wendigo, A Report

Heavy wet snow is coming down by the bucketful. My cats, Jet and Inigo Montoya, are going stircrazy chasing each other from one end of the house to the other, and I'm supposed to get some work done. Between the cats and gazing out the window, I stand about a 40% chance of meeting my word count quota today.

Before I get started, I figured I better procrastinate a little more and blog a bit. The following work of microfiction is an appropriate post for a snowy day. Posted it on Mastodon yesterday and apparently ruined someone's lunch.

100 words, no more, no less. Prompt: "avalanche."

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Microfiction: Moonrise

 This was one of my favorite micro-stories I wrote for LegendFire's weekly 100 Word Contest. One hundred words, no more, no less. It appeared in the 2022 issue of The Compendium. The prompt was "reunion."

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

I'm Reading: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Genre: Classic Lit

What do you think of it?

It's interesting to read the last thing Dickens was writing when he died. I can definitely tell it's not as polished as Great Expectations. Apparently it will end on a big cliffhanger because it's actually unfinished. So readers get to see something of his creative process, and I keep wondering what he would have changed if he had lived a while longer. 

I'm only 15% into the ebook, and I haven't figured out what the 'mystery' is or will be. Edwin Drood, a 20-ish year old, has made a brief appearance while Dickens introduces the growing cast of characters. I'm starting to get a clue that his beloved uncle is planning something underhanded toward him. Like murder? (I refuse to research it and find out. I despise spoilers.)

Recommend it?

Not really. Maybe I'll change my mind on that score later? It's rough reading given the antiquated slang and long convoluted sentences. And, as I mentioned, the lack of polish. Dickens' prose is usually very graceful, but this work had not yet reached that finished quality. I decided to read this novel in a hurry (bought a cheap copy and the .99 cent ebook versions) so I could read the modern novel Drood by Dan Simmons

Supposedly "Drood" was the last word Dickens spoke on his deathbed. I imagine this was because the dedicated author in him was distraught that he must finish writing the novel and never would. But apparently Simmons turns this haunting word into an epic supernatural thing (or something), which sounds fun to read. Can't wait to find out.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Microfiction: Pristine

Every week, LegendFire holds a 100 Words Contest for its members. It's one of our most popular activities. It encourages spontaneous creativity and very tight writing. The idea of posting my entries didn't occur to me until I saw works of microfiction popping up on Mastodon. The identities of the authors entering the contest isn't a secret, so I won't be violating any rules by posting my humble offerings.

To help me protect copyrights (I can't imagine anyone wanting to steal these, but the world is full of jerks doing inexplicable things), I'll put each story on a free-to-use image from Unsplash.

Last week's prompt was "pristine." I totally went overboard with it. Not my best writing, but the competition was fun, nonetheless.