Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In the Spotlight: Stephanie Espinoza Villamor ~ Author of "Artificial"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor on her short story, “Artificial.”

I’m beyond thrilled to be included in the IWSG anthology, and honored to have my story in both the title and cover art! While I’ve been writing in a variety of genres since I was a kid, this was my first official science fiction story. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi. But I'm more familiar with children’s fiction, like contemporary middle grade and young adult fantasy. When I saw the genre announced for the IWSG annual anthology contest I thought, “I’m in over my head!” Still, I was committed to participating since I didn’t get a chance the year before--I was busy having a kid of my own! So each night while my son slept I brainstormed science fiction.

Being a librarian who saves everything, the first idea I came up with was an archive. I wanted to explore a future where smartphone data is saved and accessible for posterity—anyone can look up someone’s life and learn from the thousands of pictures stored on their phone. My original protagonist visited this public archive to solve a mystery using clues from such photos. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out who my protagonist was. I got stuck on the details of the mystery. I just couldn’t get “into” the story.

Then one night while Baby snoozed in my lap the idea hit me. What if, instead of an archive, phone data is saved into a person? I’d recently read my friend’s thesis about artificial intelligence and her analysis of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Measure of a Man” (about sentient android, Data). I’d also previously played the video game Detroit: Become Human, all about artificially intelligent androids. This type of sci-fi character intrigued me, and suddenly my story fell into place. Best of all, I was excited to tell the story from the AI’s perspective.

“Artificial” explores the purpose of artificial intelligence in society, our human connections, and what makes something “real.”

Teenager in between Star Trek cosplayers
A 17-year-old Stephanie with cosplayers at the
annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Bryan’s role as an AI is to help Lina, not befriend her. But as his memories spark questions about the past, he finds himself growing closer to Lina in the present.


There is nothing but dark. 

Then I’m awake in Lina’s living room. I recognize Lina’s apartment from the photos she uploaded to give me a memory. I recognize Lina because her photos come up the most in my mind. Every photo of her face has been tagged with her name, and my technology allows for instant recall from my data storage. I can’t read through all my data at once, but if I’m asked a question or put in a new situation, I can scan through the data to answer, act, or solve problems. That is what an AI is for.

This is what Lina tells me. She says artificial intelligence has come a long way. Her grandmother’s AI was a voice-activated computer that searched its data storage to answer questions. Her mother’s AI had a disembodied voice that could permeate the entire house and access the Internet in under .6 seconds. But I am the next level of smart home, designed to access stored data and online information while looking as welcoming as possible. I am not a cold, disembodied robot. I am a friend.

“So, that is my role,” I say slowly, hearing my own voice for the first time. It is warm, inviting, and almost familiar. “To be your friend.”

“Yes,” Lina says, then quickly shakes her head. “No. Um, that might sound weird to people. An AI is more like...a live-in personal assistant. God knows my life needs some assisting.”

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor is a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas. As a child she wrote her own books on dot matrix printer paper, and later started publishing in school magazines and newspapers. Ultimately, she earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University, and now works as a college eLearning Librarian. She writes stories inspired by her supportive family and Hispanic heritage, especially for middle grade and young adult readers.

Don't forget that today--Wednesday, January 20--is IWSG Twitter Pitch Day! There's still time to get your tweets out. Complete and polished manuscripts can be pitched via Twitter, just leave room for genre, age, and hashtag: #IWSGPit. If your pitch gets a favorite/heart from a publisher or agent, you can check their submission guidelines and send them your requested query!

Speaking of Twitter, you may be seeing Tweets lately from Dancing Lemur Press promoting each of the stories in Dark Matter: Artificial. The ebook is already available for preorder on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble!

Coming on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 . . . 

Next up is C.D. Gallant-King, who shares his backstory for “Space Folds and Broomsticks,” about a pair of bumbling siblings in deep space....

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Meet the Authors of Dark Matter: Artificial

Greetings all! I'm excited to be taking over as blog coordinator from Louise (Fundy Blue), who did a fabulous job last year as coordinator for the Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, available on Amazon and more!

We're starting off the new year and new IWSG anthology buzz with some brief introductions of the authors featured in Dark Matter: Artificial. Come meet the 10 authors showcasing their talents through young adult to adult science fiction stories on topics ranging from artificial intelligence and deep space to alternative realities and dark matter secrets.

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor - Artificial

Stephanie is a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas. As a child she wrote her own books on dot matrix printer paper, and now works as a college eLearning Librarian. She writes stories inspired by her supportive family and Hispanic heritage, especially for middle grade and young adult readers.


C.D. Gallant-King - Space Folds and Broomsticks 

C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old. He had to make his babysitter look up how to spell "extra-terrestrial." He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds. He's a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful kids. He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario.

Kim Mannix - Rift 

Kim Mannix is a fiction writer, poet and journalist currently residing on Treaty 6 territory in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has been published in several journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. and is a contributing editor of Watch Your Head, a climate crisis anthology. You can find her on Twitter, usually posting about kids, cats, music and creepy things.


Steph Wolmarans - The Utten Mission

Steph Wolmarans is an educator, mother, wife, gardener, beekeeper, and speculative fiction author. Steph has been creating galaxies since she visited Arrakis as a child. Now she envisions worlds, discovers new beings, and spends a lot of time exploring planet Earth with her husband and two small children.


Tara Tyler - Sentient

Tara Tyler has done everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two novel series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus UnPrincess, a novella series where maidens save themselves.

Deniz Bevan - One to Another

Deniz Bevan has lived in Turkey, and her non-fiction work appeared in the trilingual newspaper Bizim Anadolu. Her short story was shortlisted for the Surrey (Canada) International Writers' Conference Storyteller's Award in 2013. Her contemporary romance, Summer Fire is out now with Carina Press.

 Charles Kowalski - Resident Alien

Charles Kowalski's contemporary thrillers, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, have won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award. He is also the author of the Japan-themed historical fantasy Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts (Tokyo: Excalibur Books, 2019). When not writing, he teaches at the International Education Center at Tokai University, near Tokyo.


Olga Goldim - Nano Pursuit

Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Both her children have already flown the nest. As a journalist, Olga focuses on the local arts and culture scene. As a fiction writer, she prefers speculative fiction. In the past few years, her fantasy and science fiction short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies. Her book SQUIRREL OF MAGIC is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. In 2015, her fantasy novel EAGLE EN GARDE won EPIC eBook Award.


Elizabeth Mueller - Resurgence

Award-winning author Elizabeth Mueller lives deep in the heart Texas surrounded by everyone she loves—including the characters who don’t stop talking in her head. While she enjoys homeschooling her kidlets, she thrives as a full-time writer of any genre that captures her heart.


Mark Alpert - Vera’s Last Voyage

Mark Alpert is a bestselling author of 10 sci-fi novels. He first heard of dark matter studying astrophysics at Princeton University, and learned more working at Scientific American. His first novel, FINAL THEORY (Simon & Schuster, 2008), was published in 24 languages and optioned for film. His YA novel, THE SIX (Sourcebooks, 2015), was nominated for several awards. His latest novel is SAINT JOAN OF NEW YORK: A NOVEL ABOUT GOD AND STRING THEORY.

You can learn even more about each of us, and how to reach or follow us online, through the blog's author page for Dark Matter: Artificial.

Coming on Wednesday,  January 20, 2021 . . .
Each of the authors in Dark Matter: Artificial will be posting over the coming weeks about how their anthology stories came to be.

I'm excited to be the one to kick off this series! I'm author Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, and I couldn't be more honored to have my story, "Artificial," chosen for the anthology's title and cover as winner of the 2020 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. I can't wait to preview it for you all!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Prepare for Ignition! "Dark Matter: Artificial" is about to Liftoff!

Happy New Year, Everyone!
And it is already happier than the last one.
I have great hope for the coming days, weeks, and months;
and I feel the weight of heavy black clouds lifting,
starting with the potential end of this tragic pandemic.

One of the exciting things on the horizon is the release
of the 2021 IWSG anthology on May 4th!

Congratulations to the ten talented IWSG members
whose stories are included in this anthology:

Artificial by Stephanie Espinoza Villamor
Space Folds and Broomsticks by CD Gallant-King
Rift by Kim Mannix
The Utten Mission by Steph Wolmarans
Sentient by Tara Tyler
One to Another by Deniz Bevan
Resident Alien by Charles Kowalski
Nano Pursuit by Olga Godim
Resurgence by Elizabeth Mueller
Vera’s Last Voyage by Mark Alpert

A thank you to our awesome publisher: 

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is fortunate to have L. Diane Wolfe
and Dancing Lemur Press to publish our sixth anthology.

This spunky dynamo and DLP published the first five anthologies

Here's a peek at what readers have to look forward to:

Dark Matter: Artificial
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets? 

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan. 

Wikimedia:  "Dark matter is invisible. The effect of gravitational lensing
causes multiple images of the same galaxy. 
A ring of dark matter has been suggested to explain this.
In this image of galaxy cluster (CL0024+17) the dark matter is seen in blue."

Preliminary publication data:
Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110) 
186 pages

A huge thanks to our hardworking judges:
A panel of agents, authors, and editors handpicked ten tales that will take readers on a journey across time and space. 

Dan Koboldt, author and #SFFpit founder
Lynda R. Young, author
Colleen Oefelein, agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
Damien Larkin, author
Ion Newcombe, editor and publisher
Julie Gwinn, agent, The Seymour Agency
David Powers King, author

A huge thanks to our Ninja Captain:
Without the vision and hard work of IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh,
none of this would be happening!  
He is one amazing and generous spirit!

What to read while you're waiting:
Let me recommend any and all of the first five IWSG anthologies.

                       2016                           2017                          2018                            2019


Coming on Wednesday,  January 13, 2021 . . .
Our next post will introduce the talented authors of Dark Matter: Artificial.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

Upcoming IWSG Events . . .
Ready to try your hand at a Twitter pitch? Then join us January 20, 2021 for #IWSGPit - 
And polish, polish, polish those pitches. Good luck!

For some excellent tips check out Alex J. Cavanaugh's post: