Alexa and Siri Are My Bitches

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And by “bitches,” I mean “dear friends who help me with things.”

This weekend, I finally upgraded my pathetically outdated iPhone 4. Not even the 4S—the 4, you guys. It was years old and turtle slow. It did make calls, which is pretty much the point of a phone, but in my out-in-the-country apartment, I barely have service. Texting is my main method of communication—that and FaceTime. I’ve long been eligible for an upgrade, but money’s been tighter than tight. Sprint.com had a deal: a free iPhone 5S with a two-year contract renewal. Um, hello!

I’d been using Siri on the iPad, which we got secondhand in December 2015—and it radically changed my life. When it’s plugged in, you can use the “Hey Siri” feature, which is pretty handy. For example, if I’m cooking dinner and the iPad is on the counter playing a podcast, I can plunk my sore body down and say, “Hey Siri… Set a timer for 20 minutes.” Hands-free, which my achy fingers and wrists really appreciate. I don’t have to walk across the kitchen to reach the iPad, which my hip and lower back also appreciate.

Since activating my new phone, I’ve used Siri mostly for texting. I’ve been having a hard time with texting lately, because my thumbs and wrists are so stiff and sore. The simplest messages take me forever, and it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll goof them up somehow. It’s really amazing to hit that button and say “Read my texts” or “Text so-and-so…”

While the tech itself is cool and I nerd out a lot about it, I’m all about the accessibility. If Siri has been helpful to me, imagine how helpful it is for others!

I would’ve been completely satisfied with my Siri, but my aunt got us an Echo Dot for Christmas. Now my little gang is complete with Siri and Alexa.

At first, back when Alexa first launched, I thought it was a tad bit creepy that Alexa is always listening. You don’t press any buttons. You just say “Alexa,” and then whatever command. It was also kind of buggy when it first launched; it didn’t understand a lot of things and often played the wrong songs, etc. But Amazon seems to have ironed out some serious kinks. However, Alexa doesn’t seem to understand my husband. Maybe it’s because he spent its first night home completely torturing it: “Alexa, what drugs do you do?” Now Alexa ignores him completely. (I can’t really say I blame it.)

In the morning, I’m supposed to take my Plaquenil, Prednisone, and one of my two Tramadol for the day with some food. I’ve been having trouble with Plaquenil and dairy, though, so if I have any dairy in my breakfast, I wait before taking my meds. Being that I’m so stiff in the morning and my mobility isn’t the greatest until Prednisone kicks in, I’ve already settled into a rhythm with Alexa. When I finish eating, I say “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes.” It can hear me from across the room and starts the timer right away. I can even ask it, “Alexa, how much time is left on my timer?” I don’t have to get up or push any buttons. For me, this is a dream. When the timer goes off, I say “Alexa, stop,” and take my meds with water.

I’m sure I’ll find more uses for Alexa and Siri. I’m trying to figure out how I can have Alexa read my manuscripts to me while I’m editing; it can read Kindle books, but I don’t know if I’d have to format my WIP as a .mobi first or if it’d work just fine if I just load it into my account as a .doc. This would help me catch more errors in early passes.

Siri can also take dictation; I’m planning on setting aside some time to play around with writing by dictating to Siri on my Mac. I know a lot of authors love Dragon, but I just don’t have the budget for it. Dictating my novels—if I can get the hang of writing out loud—would really take some strain off my wrists.

I know a lot of people are kind of weirded out by voice-commanded tech. It seems futuristic and slightly creepy. My dad, for example, wants nothing to do with it. I completely agree that there are certain lines you just don’t cross. I wouldn’t load all of my payment and banking information into Apple Wallet, for example. That’s just asking for trouble—or at least, it seems that way to me. But Alexa can order things off Amazon for you, and you can even set a voice code so that it can’t be abused. I don’t often feel well enough to run errands, and Mike is usually exhausted and raring for a nap after work, so it would be pretty handy to say “Alexa, order some paper towels” or whatever when we’re running low. They’d be delivered straight to my door, saving both of us some time.

You can even connect certain home objects to your Alexa. It’d be so rad to say “Alexa, turn down the thermostat” or “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light.” I can easily imagine mornings, when it’s hard to get out of bed, made a bit easier by my girls: “Alexa, read Let’s Get Visible.” I could still be productive.

I do feel kind of weird “bossing” Alexa and Siri around. I can’t help but think of The Matrix and even Dollhouse. It brings up some interesting questions. Does AI have feelings? What makes us human? Sometimes I say “please” or just tell them they rock. I can easily imagine a future where voice-commanded AI is super useful or completely and totally abused—or abusing us! It’s definitely an intriguing avenue to explore in fiction. My Amarie in the f/f companion novel to Just One More Minute always says “please” to Alexa and Siri, because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. (Amarie is so sweet, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!)

Security and ethics aside, I welcome our robot overlords. As long as you’re smart about how you use them, they can be extremely beneficial to those of us with limited mobility. I’m even envisioning a future where, instead of the Life Alert lanyard, elderly people have an Echo Dot or something similar in their home; if they fall, they can say “Alexa, call 911” or even “Alexa, call my daughter.”

There are so many fantastic uses for Alexa, Siri, and future iterations. I’m eager to see how this technology progresses!

Do Alexa and Siri creep you out? How would you utilize them in your everyday life? Let me know in the comments!

What I’m Working On (Release News and More)

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Occasionally I like to check in with my goals for the year and to share with you what I’m currently working on. Usually it’s not this late in the year but I’ve been crazy busy! If you want a better idea of what’s up, join my FREE email list to get my newsletter.

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2016 Goals

This year, my goals were:

  • release something every 2-3 months
  • write six new novels
  • maybe join a social club
  • read more books
  • practice acceptance

I’ve done pretty well on all of these so far.

A couple of my releases were actually re-releases through my now closed publisher, but I released books in March, June, and August, and have a new release scheduled for November 18th. That book is Just One More Minute, a standalone NA romance in a duology, and I’ll be sharing more details soon.

I definitely didn’t write six books, but I’m extremely proud of the two I have written so far this year. One of those was Just One More Minute, and the other was the first in a new series that you’ll be hearing about probably in 2018.

Though I didn’t join a social club, I did work really hard on my PTSD. A lot of my anxiety eased up this year, and I was able to get out and enjoy lots of activities with friends and family. Much of the work I did was practicing acceptance, and I’ve forgiven myself and recognized that none of the traumas I’ve endured were my fault. That, to me, would’ve been a win enough for the year.

But I also managed to squeeze in lots of reading. You can see some of the books I read this summer here. I’ve also read the much talked about Author Anonymous by E.K. Blair and the beautiful Pretty Pink Ribbons by K.L. Grayson, which I’ll gush about in my autumn reading wrap-up in December.

This year didn’t go as planned—as life usually tends to do—but I’m extremely proud of every single second of it.

Writing and Release News

As I mentioned, I’ll be releasing a standalone NA romance on November 18th. Just One More Minute is part of a small town duology; this book is a complete standalone about Rowan and Matt, and the other book is a complete standalone about Char and Amarie (release date TBA). It will be available on all ebook retailers for $2.99, though I may be running a promo for the first few days. The duology name is Not Just Any Love.

I am currently working on the fourth South of Forever book, tentatively titled Dancing on Broken Strings. The book is outlined and was going to be the final book in the series, but after reading through some recent reviews and seeing how much readers love these characters, I knew I had to write more. Plus, if I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t ready to let go of Jett, Koty, and the gang, either. The fourth book will release in early 2017, and then I’m going to take a break because…

…it’s time to focus on wrapping up the Comes in Threes trilogy. I never meant to be away from this series for so long. When I released Crazy Comes in Threes in 2013, I had every intention of immediately writing and releasing the other two books. But I had a really hard time writing Trouble Comes in Threes. The story hits so close to home, and I was dealing with some other personal things. Then I signed with a small press and it felt like the right choice to focus on my rockstar romance series. I never stopped thinking about Quinn and Tara, though, and over the last three years countless readers have asked me when their story will continue. It’s high time. I am currently outlining the sequel and, as long as my body cooperates, will be writing it as soon as I’m finished with the fourth SOF book.

I’m hesitant to post any kind of release schedule, because both life and the publishing industry are unpredictable. However, for those of you who like neat lists, my tentative schedule looks something like this:

November 18th, 2016
Just One More Minute
Standalone, Not Just Any Love

Winter 2017
Dancing on Broken Strings
Book 4, South of Forever

Spring 2017
Trouble Comes in Threes
Book 2, Comes in Threes

Untitled
Book 3, Comes in Threes

Summer 2017
Untitled
Book 5, South of Forever

Dates may change, of course, and I may switch up the fifth SOF book with the Char/Amarie book or another standalone, depending on how things go. However, the plan is for the SOF series to be my main, longer series, with releases alternating with shorter series and standalones.

Miscellaneous

30% off THE NANNY WITH THE SKULL TATTOOSThe Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is 30% off on Kobo through October 31st! Use code 30OCT at checkout. You can download the Kobo app on your smartphone or tablet for FREE. Click here to purchase your copy.

7-spooky-storiesJust in time for Halloween, my short story collection The Last Minute Before Midnight is back on Kindle Unlimited! Click here to read for FREE with your KU subscription, or to purchase for $2.99.

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