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The Sad Lure of Negativity

You may not know this, but Facebook, particularly, limits the number of people who see a post from someone, even if they follow that someone.

It’s not a surprise, and it’s not a big deal. They aren’t a humanitarian organization. They’re about making money. So if you want more people to see your post, you need to pay to boost it. That is, unless it’s shared and goes viral in some manner.

As such, you’ll note, if you pay attention and you’re hooked into the algorithms, many authors you follow repeat a lot of information in hopes of getting it out to a wider audience.

So it always goes, the early days of social media, where you’d get tons of likes and comments on posts just because you threw one up, are long gone.

Not a biggie. In life, but definitely in the publishing business, you gotta roll the way things roll. It’s about constantly adjusting, finding new ways to engage and reach your readers, fine-tuning those, only to come to a time when you have to throw what you did out the window and find something new.

And it’s pretty fucking rad, if you ask me. There is nothing boring about this biz. There are no ruts to get stuck in. You’re always learning, and you’re always challenged to find creative ways to reach out to your readers, engage with them, as well as sell your books.

When it comes to this social media business, all you gotta do is dig into your inspiration (which is, as an author, kinda my gig…or it should be) to repeat a message in ways that don’t get boring or spend some money to boost.

Change is part of the process.

Because change is part of life.

Just the other day, someone mentioned that another author shared some AI-generated pictures of characters.

I read that, knowing my ex-hubby, who’s an artist, plays with AI. I thought about asking him to create some, even if I have some concerns about AI, and they’re grave, and they extend from the fact that a massive, multi-billion-dollar company stole 12 of my books to feed into their AI program, and thousands and thousands more books from my fellow authors, and I felt intensely violated by that. It got worse when I looked up my friend, Jill Shalvis, on the list of stolen books, and she had even more. Don’t even go there with the likes of Nora Roberts. Her library was gutted for free by said huge-ass, billion-dollar company for their profit. Reading Nora’s list broke something deep inside me on her behalf.

Theft of intellectual property is a big freaking deal.

Property is property, no one wants their property stolen. But something that you birth from your imagination, your heart, your experiences, and unleash on the world being stolen really fucking sucks.

If someone gives you permission to use their work, okay. If you take it from pirate sites that already stole it and they give it away for others to steal, and you do it to make (more) money for yourself, man…that seriously stings.

Nevertheless, there are two things you can’t escape: change and technological advances. AI is not going away. It should be regulated, but it’s not going anywhere. And truth, there are advantages to it. I’m not going to enumerate them, but people feared electricity, and now look where we are.

With that in mind, and I will admit, with no small amount of excitement at what he might generate, and how my readers might dig that, and how it would be a new way to engage with you all, I asked MM to build some pictures of some of my characters from Avenging Angel.

He did it. I liked the pix. I posted them. And I had some people who were not happy I did that due to the controversy around AI. As noted above, this controversy wasn’t new to me, but I thought I’d made a considered decision in posting them, because, yeah, AI is here to stay. But I’ve also seen a lot of AI generated stuff for books or just hot dudes on TikTok, and I’ve enjoyed viewing it. I thought I could give that to you.

Even with this negative feedback, I had no intention of taking the pix down. I’ve been at this a long time, and I’ve learned that everyone is not going to agree with me on every subject under the sun.

However, when I walked away, it nagged at me. And it kept nagging at me.

It did this because I didn’t know the program MM used, most importantly, if they were careful to have gained permissions to use the images they use in their AI generated content. By that time, since he lives in England, he was asleep. So I couldn’t ask him.

I then started to get upset, because, if they didn’t, I was doing to others what had been done to me and my fellow authors when a huge-ass, billion-dollar company stole our books.

So, as a grown-ass woman who can take feedback, process it, and further consider my position on a subject, I made a different decision. I took the post down and gave my readers a seriously freaking kick-ass pudding recipe (because, if you like chocolate and cream, you have to make Raye’s pudding).

Perhaps more, I didn’t want any drama on my page. I like to keep my socials clean of drama. I want people to look at my socials as a safe haven of book news, cat memes, cute puppies, inspirational goodies and other positivity. I don’t want people to see my name on something that makes them get upset. That is, indeed, the last thing I want. There is more than enough stuff that is upsetting in this world. Causing even more? Nah. I’m out.

And I would think others, if not everyone, would understand that goal.

But, man…what happened next I could not have expected. Even if I know in a lot of my own social media scrolling there’s tons of negativity and ugliness. Tons. Because it didn’t occur to me that me making a decision I have every right to make about the content I share would explode into a tsunami of more negativity.

Let me put this in a nutshell. On the one hand, I had some folks upset I used AI generated images. Then, I had even more people upset I took them down and a whole host of other stuff that goes with that, like some folks feeling it’s their right to see said images, when actually, it isn’t.

Now, I’m not talking about the folks who were upset on my behalf. And supportive. And excited about Raye’s pudding. I thank you. I would be remiss not to make a special note that there was a great deal of kindness as well. And I’ll stress, there was a great deal of it. Because Rock Chicks are awesome that way.

But…just like that, one of my posts, the only possibly negative one I’ve put up in ages, got more comments and chatter than the vast majority of anything else I put up.

Yes, regardless that it also shared an insanely good pudding recipe (seriously, make that pudding!).

So, in the midst of being super excited that everyone was loving Avenging Angel (though, I’m still super excited, beyond excited!—I love that you all are loving Cap and Raye’s story), I was confronted with the fact the sad lure of negativity captures a social media audience more than anything else, and some of the stuff folks said wasn’t real nice.

Case in point:

“You did not want to upset people but you did. TWICE. First the ‘offended’ ones, and later the rest of us who wanted but couldn’t see it. Now, I am offended because you did not allowi me to see what others could and because you censored your ex work (and yourself’s, the worst kind imo, auto-censorship)” [sic] [and this comment was liked by others, don’t search for it, I’ve hidden it because I don’t want the poster to get any ugly because I’ve pulled it out of the fray and highlighted it]

I share this specifically because I was very wounded by the above post for a variety of reasons. One, I didn’t censor shit. I didn’t go into a deep-dive explanation (like I’m doing now) of why I made the decision I did, mostly because MM was asleep, and I had an appearance at the Poisoned Pen, so the answers I needed to make a thorough explanation weren’t available to me, and I didn’t have time to dive into it.

But I also didn’t simply delete a post without sharing with folks that it was deleted. The images were making the rounds, and I didn’t want anyone to wonder where they were.

Now, MM and I talk every day. We’ve discussed AI at length. Since this happened, we’ve discussed it even more. He doesn’t feel slighted the images were taken down. He doesn’t agree with me, but he gets it.

And now that we’ve had time to talk about it, this is what he has to say about AI as a very talented artist who uses it:

“But what most people don’t realise is that it is formulaic, it always will be, it can only extrapolate on what it has seen before. It does not actually understand Art, it can’t see the soul of it. It can create a nice picture, it can write a rhyming poem, a story, even a sitcom. But, it is empty, dull, anything good that it produces has to be filtered out by a real artist, … I have played with it working on sitcom ideas and it just does not understand.”

Even so, I asked him if he could confirm that the program he uses is certain to procure copyright permissions, and he shared that the company is being sued, so no, it’s unlikely they do.

As such, those images he created should not be disseminated because there’s a good chance they violate copyright. So, my worry was confirmed. I not only upset people who have issues with AI, I possibly did to some unknown artists what was done to me. As such, I made the absolute right decision in taking them down.

In other words, I got excited about the prospect of doing this, and giving it to all of you, and I acted in haste. I wasn’t sure they were safe, and couldn’t find out until I could talk to MM, so I took the post down just in case that was true. If they were safe, I would have reposted the images. They were not, so they’ll remain down.

The thing that prompted me to write this blog post is the above response to me making the absolute right decision in taking it down, one they didn’t agree with, and okay, don’t agree. But let’s be careful of hurling erroneous accusations of censorship for making a decision I’m entitled to make about something that you are not entitled to receive.

Now, let’s get to the meat of the matter here.

The image created for Cap looked exactly like Chris Evans. In the book, I don’t know how many times I mention that Cap looks like Chris Evans. Raye even calls him Chris in her head before she learns his name. Cap is called “Cap” as a riff on Captain America, who is played by Chris Evans. So, if you want a visual of Cap, look up “Chris Evans beard” on Google. Voila! Cap! And enjoy, because Chris is gorgeous, but with a beard…damn. Check this out.

The image created for Tito looked like Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt wearing sunglasses. I believe probably every person who’s read my books has seen an image of Santa Claus. Put a Hawaiian shirt on him and slap some sunnies on his face, oh…and make him short, you got Tito.

As for the image created for Raye, honestly, that was the one I wasn’t sure about posting because she was a little too cutesy for me. I visualize Raye as more of a classic beauty, not cutesy. That said, I want you to visualize her as you see fit. I also tend to get less detailed with describing heroines so I can give readers room to put themselves in that place if they do that while reading.

So, although the gal MM created was pretty adorable, and I liked her for Cap, she didn’t light any worlds on fire, at least for me. However, if you want to see her as I see her, maybe Google “beautiful blonde woman with wavy hair.” I just did that, and a gazillion images came up, of which, on the first two lines, I saw three that worked for Raye in my head. You can pick what works for you.

Here’s one.

Here’s another.

And here’s the third. (The #1 image on this site)

This blog post seems like a huge-ass admonishment, when part of me is glad there was a conversation about this, because discussion is part of coming to understanding…if not agreeing.

But part of me truly is sad that the general understanding wasn’t that I took reader feedback into consideration and acted on it. I would think all of you who share with me would want me to respect your feedback (if it’s respectfully given). I might not agree with you or act on it, but when someone matters to you—as my readers very much matter to me—I open my mind to their thoughts, opinions, and input. And if the wheels of my mind turn in that direction, I’ll act on it.

Rock Chick Revolution was titled by a reader. The plot of Wild Man was suggested by a reader (she’s my aunt, but she also reads all my books!). Reader interest in seeing Nick redeemed got you Sebring. Hell, the whole of the River Rain series has my readers’ fingerprints all over it.

So the point of this is my asking you to be aware of the negativity you inject into the world through your keyboard. Sometimes, it can hurt. And two, remember that even if you don’t “know” the person, they matter. You matter. As such, you matter to me. But you should matter to each other too.

And although some of you are sure not to like what I say next, I’m gonna say it. I thank the readers who shared their concern about the AI generated content. You made me think. And in so doing, you guided me to take the steps needed to make an appropriate decision to safeguard my fellow artists. And that’s incredibly meaningful.

For those of you who don’t agree, I’ve also heard you. Please take no shade that I don’t agree with you. But that doesn’t mean you weren’t heard. It simply means I don’t agree.

And I hate to leave this on a negative note, but here it is.

For those of you who got angry at me for making a decision about my own content, I ask you next time to take a breath and consider your anger, if it’s fitting, how you direct it, how you express it and what it might do once it’s unleashed. I did not cure cancer and then decide to keep the pharmaceutical compound to myself and allow hundreds of thousands of people to die. I took down a few pictures I wasn’t comfortable having up, pictures that upset some people, and pictures that may have included someone else’s property that they did not consent to be used in that manner. And in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t worth hurting anyone’s feelings.

The Rock Chick has spoken…

Now…

Rock on.

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