Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Rise of the Machines

I'm a little disturbed right now because I just witnessed something at the grocery store that took me aback. Rather, it was more like a swift punch to the gut. Shoppers were waiting in line to use the automatic robotic cashier machines while right beside them, stood a human cashier just twiddling her thumbs.

Now I have to admit, I had every intention of using the robots as well. But when I saw the young woman, or girl, standing there gazing at her newly polished fingernails, I made my way over to her, set my groceries on the belt and thus began my transaction the old fashioned way.

"It's a terrible thing for humanity when people choose the robots over the humans," I said.
But she just looked at me like I'm one of those middle-aged dudes who still smokes pot.

But it got me thinking. The rise of the machines is really upon us. I just had a book released in hardcover (The Corruptions), but I spend most of my marketing time setting up promos for the eBook or electronic versions of my books. I sell far more eBooks than paper and I sell them all over the world right from the laptop set up in my home office. Home, being where ever I choose to be at any given time.

Publishers now consult computer algorithms when deciding to take on a book or not. The computer can't be wrong, can it? New artificial intelligence programs are being developed that not only help us write faster, but help us plot our books. Soon, they will be relied upon to write them. You just wait and see.

I heard recently that a law is being enacted in the UK granting a specific set of rights to AI. Can you imagine your digitally enhanced toaster possessing the ability to sue you if you mistreat it?

The machines are taking over. God save humanity.  Think I'll go back to using my typewriter.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

True Lies: Real Life Prison Break Makes for Good Fiction

Is there anything more inspiring than the local news headlines when seeking out an idea for your fiction? Who doesn't like true lies? This is not to be confused with "fake news," which seems to be all the rage these days, because this ain't about politics. It's about where ideas come from. After all, if only I had a nickel for the many fans and/or interested parties who ask me, seemingly on a daily basis, "Where do you get your ideas, Vin?" 

The answers is, some shit I make up, others I rob from the headlines.

The Corruptions, now out in hardcover, eBook, and audio (Polis Books) is one of those stories I robbed from the headlines. It all began when two cons made a daring Hollywood-like escape from Dannemora Maximum Security Prison, or what's officially known in New York State Department of Corrections circles as the Clinton County Correctional Facility. It's also known as "Little Siberia" to its 3,000 or so inmates due to its location very close to the Canadian border. I've been up there and it's pretty much a castle surrounded by thick forest. Like the real Siberia, it's super freaking cold in the winter and super hot in the summer, and no one...not a soul...has escaped the joint in its 150 or so years of existence.

That is, until June of 2015 when two inmates, David Sweat and Reginald Moss, crawled their way through a steam pipe out into the Dannemora sewers. From there they popped a manhole cover, and waited for an escape vehicle that never arrived. What to do then?

Head for the woods.

What followed was a massive manhunt that lasted for days upon days, involved more law enforcement agencies, both federal and state (and Canadian), than you can shake a prison guard's baton at, and that reduced the governor of the Empire State to fits of rage and perhaps even tears...Hey, it's entirely possible. 

The story was covered on nationally and perhaps even internationally. The residents of the little town of Dannemora which surrounds the prison took up arms, and it all made for some great television and Internet watching. It was like a Hollywood picture playing out in real time. Of course, what we were all waiting for was the inevitable showdown between the cons and the police, which came weeks later during a shootout that left one of them dead, and the other wounded.

We all wondered how this kind of thing could happen in this day and age of hyper security, but deep down, despite the crimes of the perps (and they are significant), we were all sort of rooting for the bad guys. So this is the story that fascinated me enough to wrap a big fiction around it, much like I did with the first Keeper Marconi PI novel, The Innocent (Delactore and Thomas &Mercer). In this case, The Corruptions is based on the true story of the Dannemora escape, but my imagination takes over and hopefully I was able to make a fascinating story even more fascinating by imagining, what if? The Innocent has sold hundreds of thousands of units. Let's see what The Corruptions can do. Let's see if it captures the frantic spirit of two cons on the run.

Speaking of escaped cons, here's a quick joke. Two escaped cons are running down the road, when one of them spots some roadkill. "I'm freakin' starving," he says. "I'm gonna eat that." "I think I'll wait," the second con says. The first con fills his face with the roadkill, but immediately pukes. That's when the second con drops to his knees and eats the puke up off the pavement. When he's done, he stands, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "I was waiting for a hot meal," he says. 

If you like a cool, relentless, cat-and-mouse thriller, you'll want to check out the newly released The Corruptions (A Keeper Marconi Thriller No. 4). Think Fargo meets The Shawshank Redemption. My thanks to the cons who dared escape those prison walls. I know they hoped to make it to the border. It didn't work out that way, but at least they gave it one hell of a shot. In doing so, they captured the imaginations of thousands of people. The Corruptions will too.