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AI & Digital Art – Opinion Post

It all kicked off on social media for a 24-hour period, which turned into outright bullying. It was a witch hunt, and the bandwagon was a disgusting display of how quickly negativity spirals in the digital age. There’s been a lot of it lately. Being new to the Twitter platform, it seems like a source for much of that ‘hate’ energy. Perhaps I’ve just not been exposed to that much (thankfully)! Anyway, I posted my tuppence worth on Facebook and thought I’d share here since it’s topical within book publishing and is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

The advancements in technology are astounding; we can all agree. The changes in my lifetime that have opened doors for global collaborations and distribution of art, music and literature are beyond what we could have imagined only a few decades ago. Technological advances have indeed made as many as it has broken.

From handwriting to typewriters to computers and printers. Pigeons, boats, airmail, fax, email and instant electronic delivery of words and art. And as difficult an adjustment as some changes may be at first, many ultimately embrace them.

We’ve been carving art from rock with stones since man stood upright. How much art and expression have changed is magnificent, and none of the changes takes away from how inspiring those first scratchings of creativity and communication embedded into our history, into the rocks, the bones are and always will be.

I remember turning my nose up at ‘digital cameras’ and ‘digital art’ when they were developed. I admit my attitude then lacked maturity, and there was perhaps a bit of snobbery. Now, I have a digital camera permanently attached to my hand! There’s magic in a dark room and effects that cannot be achieved any other way. You know what, it doesn’t have to be one or the other — I appreciate both art forms. And I like that people can capture crisper ‘memories’ in photos without professional skill. It’s (arguably) more accessible.

Going after AI is like going after anything else that was once ‘new’ before it. No, it’s not the same as paint on canvas or a human digital artist layering and developing elements to create a unique piece. It isn’t supposed to be either!

I don’t think any creative should be threatened by AI technology (at this point).

It seems that folk are so quick (on social media) to jump on the attack. Pitchforks out, ready for the witch hunt, taking it out on someone entirely undeserving. Whatever happened to the old sentiment ‘if you’ve not got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’?

And for all of us working in independent/small press publishing, in whatever role, I wonder what we would be doing without technological advancements. Digital artists would not exist. Self/Independent Publishing would not exist as it does now. Haven’t we each experienced archaic attitudes looking down their noses at our work at one point or another? It seems a somewhat hypocritical thing to go on the attack for.

Image generated using text prompted AI

Summer Solstice Note

Here in the village, the longest day of light is obscured by dense, low-hanging clouds. Heat permeates air molecules, caressing the skin and teasing water just out of reach.

The rain may come, or she may not. Either way, flames will lick skyward.

Flames will dance with padding feet, and shadows and ash will remark spiritual and physical boundaries on Litha.

Steeped in traditions around the globe, the essence of the Sabbat (when the sun is further from the equator) and her rituals are ultimately the same. We dance in tandem. Burning off what is no longer needed, shedding skins, and embracing what is filled with nourishing light and growth opportunities. This is a Sabbat of rebirth, regeneration through fire and light.

Evidence of Solstice traditions goes back to at least the Neolithic era.

Some consider Summer Solstice as Midsummer, and others consider it only the beginning. Like Winter Solstice, I’ve always taken the literal translation of these sabbats being the midpoint of the season regardless of climate, which in Scotland can be unpredictable.

Some traditions of this festival of sun worship can be found in numerous sources. This one is a nice quick read over on National Trust.

The Crash of Verses

Rafik Romdhani

This week welcomes the release of Rafik Romdhani’s second poetry collection, The Crash of Verses. A hearty congratulations to this exemplary wordsmith on his newest release! Working with the author in developing his manuscript to present digital and print editions to the public was a pleasure.

The book is available to purchase via this universal link.
Early reviews have been shared on Goodreads, which have been excellent so far (and well deserved). If you pick up the book, please consider leaving an honest review on your prefered platform. These are incredibly valuable to other readers and independent creators alike.

About Rafik Romdhani

Rafik Romdhani was born to Salah Romdhani and Mbarka Romdhani in Rakada Kairouan, Tunisia in 1981. He grew up on a large farm, where like many Tunisian children, he undertook years of heavy, back-breaking work. He is a poet by nature and an English teacher by profession. He studied English Language and Literature in the Faculty of Arts, University of Kairouan and started teaching in 2006 in Tunisia. From 2012 he taught English in the Sultanate of Oman before returning to work again in Tunisian schools in 2016.

Romdhani began writing poetry in 2000. His influences include Charles Baudelaire, Herbert Zbiginiew, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, and Sghaier Aouled Ahmed. His debut collection, Dance of the Metaphors, released in 2021, represents an authentic outpouring of his long-suppressed desire to share his poetry with a wider audience. His second collection, The Crash of Verses, hits global audiences in 2022.

Romdhani’s work tackles themes from his observations of nature, politics, culture, society and humanity. His prose is exquisitely conceived and presented in a form as elegantly classical as it is strikingly modern. In his prose, readers are guaranteed a journey never to be forgotten.

Cancelled!

I wrote my first short story of 2022 and submitted it to a publisher at the weekend.

My aim this year was always to pull away from short story writing (and submitting) to focus on longer works, my coursework and editing.

And I’ve stuck to it pretty rigidly, even when declining offers is painful! But spreading oneself too thin degrades everything.

I’m not going to go into the details of this short story, but I will say that its content, along with recent conversations with other writers, got me thinking; If I had a higher readership, I’d be cancelled.

I know there are many faux pas and taboos that change over time, and my work constantly bears the weight of uncomfortable themes. Horrifying right? One of the reasons I now include content warnings is to support readers sensitive to particular themes. It is not a poor taste marketing strategy. It is genuinely to deter readers that could feel hurt by my work. If I’m doing my job correctly, my work (in horror particularly) should be uncomfortable.

Over the last few years, there has been a notable request for ‘diversity’ from publishers demanding representation from marginalised groups — in a writer’s personal circumstances and in the characters we create to tell our stories. In this quest, many are outright discrimination, the very thing they claim to be trying to ‘correct’. ‘We demand diversity and representation unless you’re a cis white male’ being the most prominent. How dare they! On top of that, these diversity thumpers are dictating the presence of character archetypes in a creative’s work! ‘No LGBTQI+ representation? Better squeeze one in there, to keep everyone happy.’

Well, quite frankly fuck that! I don’t fall in line with any dictatorship! And it has zero place in art of any kind!

I am anti book banning.

I am anti art burning.

I am anti-censorship.

I am anti-dictatorship.

If you don’t like an artist’s material — don’t buy a ticket, don’t read their work and don’t dictate how anyone else should feel about it! Such arrogance is deeply misguided and kills art. It doesn’t promote it; it doesn’t promote equality or diversity. You’re foolish if you think that it does. The great tapestry of creative output is the very definition of diversification and multicultural without a pre-set dictated agenda!

Delevan House

This week, we’re coming out of the stacks! We are letting the other book out of the bag and sharing a COVER REVEAL (that may be subject to slight changes) for a truly exceptional project with my magical mistress of folklore and mayhem, the lady in red, Ruthann Jagge! We are co-authoring a spectacular world for you. As the wheel turns to the darker side of 2022, you are invited to ‘Delevan House’. Here is the sneak peek of the cover art designed by the talented Don Noble of Rooster Republic Press.

Coming in 2022

We are a red-hot fusion that is guaranteed to create major waves; that is a promise!

Watch this space. You won’t want to miss a thing.

Writing to Music

Music is such a profound part of my writing process and always has been. With the imminent release of my novella, Asylum Daughter, I wanted to share the music that formed the soundtrack to the writing of this piece.

Art influences art, and I couldn’t create without music. Every piece I write has its own playlist. Sometimes, those playlists are unexpected and not my taste, but the characters have their styles. I can’t argue. The soundtrack to Asylum Daughter was ‘80s heavy and all good by me.

I can’t wait to hear what you think! And feel free to check out some of the early readers thoughts on Goodreads.

Soundtrack to writing Asylum Daughter:

Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels

Tears For Fears – Shout

Tears For Fears – Mad World

Tears For Fears – Sowing The Seeds Of Love

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight

The Jam – Going Underground

The Jam – Town Called Malice

Depeche Mode – Strange Love

Depeche Mode – World In My Eyes

New Order – Blue Monday

New Order – Age Of Consent

The Cure – Pictures Of You

The Cure – Prayers For Rain

The Cure – The Hanging Garden

The Cure – Lovesong

The Cure – Fascination Street

The Cure – The Same Deep Water As You

The Clash – Rock The Casbah

The Cure – A Forest

Blue Oyster Cult – Shooting Shark

Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Dave Navarro – Hungry

Dave Navarro – Rexall

Dave Navarro – Slow Motion Sickness

Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Bauhaus – She’s At Parties

Bauhaus – Dark Entities

David Bowie – China Girl

Patti Smith – Birdland

Patti Smith – Because The Nighy

Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Lemonheads – My Drug Buddy

The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Mortiis- Sins Of Mine

Korn – Coming Undone

Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid

A Flock of Seagulls – Space Age Live Song

Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot

Mazzy Star – Into Dust

The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink

Urge Overkill – Girls You’ll Be A Woman Soon

Mental Health in Horror

A while ago, I shared a bit about mental health in my writing, inspired by a panel I had taken part in with Mothers of Mayhem. Although naturally nerve-racking and coupled with technical glitches on my end, it was a wonderful experience, and I’m grateful to Marian and Christina (MoM) for the opportunity. This episode of Mothers of Mayhem’s Hidden Voices in Horror has now aired. You can tune in on YouTube to this particular episode featuring me (Natasha Sinclair), Lucas Milliron, Allisha McAdoo, R.E. Shambrook and Gerhard Jason Geick. There is an excellent variety of episodes building — follow MoM to get notified when new episodes drop!

My original post here.

Woodworm

I visualise the tiny holes
Secretly infesting,
Weakening bones
Like woodworm.
I’m on one of their backs;
A voyeur
In inner space.
Woodworm cancer
Speckling the
Skeleton,
Spreading spots
Eroding this life’s vessel.
He says he’s fine
When he late
Returns,
Reluctant—
Like a child
Pushed towards
Their failure,
Their mistake,
Disgrace.
He says he’s fine
When he lies to me—
Face blue,
Faceless
Digital alphabets
Thrown together,
A string
For a stranger—
Loveless.
I keep making
Peace with the
Distance;
Goldfish swimming
In circles.
The no return
Excuses,
The rot in
My soul,
The hole
He created
With another falsity!
It’s ok.
I’ve made peace—
I lie to myself too.
The damnation
Of Genetics.

Clan Witch on Etsy

A couple of years ago, I put in the work and opened an Etsy store. However, I closed it quickly — before doing any marketing — due to other commitments that took priority over maintaining a wee shop.

This year, I’ve rejuvenated the storefront and opened the doors. It’s a far more efficient way for customers to access books that I have in my stock and other specially designed book merchandise available only via Clan Witch. So rather than posting availability on the socials, Etsy will be the go-to place. Books will still be available across the usual retail channels such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Waterstones etc. But Etsy is the place for merch, out of print versions and signed stock.

Clan With on Etsy.

ClanWitchShop

New Cover Art

Murmur: Collected Horror

I have a collection, ‘Incesticide: Collected Horror’, releasing later this year, which borrows an album title (much like my first collection in that hat-tip). I deliberately designed the cover for the upcoming with an indie-artsy feel in homage to its namesake.

Murmur: Collected Horror‘ felt a little out of place since that cover didn’t reflect the feel to the same extent as the newbie. I decided to redesign the jacket. This is what I do when I procrastinate!

Updates are processing with immediate effect on ‘Murmur: Collected Horror‘. I have a small stock of paperbacks (I’ve no hardbacks left) with the original cover. Once they are gone, they are gone! That makes them extremely limited.

Once I check what I have, I’ll update on Facebook and on Instagram — if you want one, you can drop me a DM on one of the socials once posted — first come, first served.

Apologies, for the paperbacks I have remaining in stock it will be UK postage only.

Previous eBook cover, 2021 (left), New eBook cover, 2022 (right)
New print cover wrap, 2022, Murmur: Collected Horror