5 Things You Might Need to Hear Right Now

My hand-crafted echo chambers are full of mourning and outrage (with a sprinkling of praises and celebration). Reading through it is hard and not good for anything useful of any kind. Expectations have been shattered, and some are genuinely afraid for their lives or livelihood.

If your echo chamber is similar -- or if it's your life or livelihood that's endangered -- I'm not going to tell you it'll be okay or it will get better. I don't know that. I don't. But I do know a few things you might need to hear right now.

1) Take care of yourself. If you fall apart, nothing else you take in or put out will matter. There is no shame in taking a few days off to cry or laugh or escape. In fact, there may be shame in not doing that.
2) Turn off the Endless Browser of Outrage. I'm in a much better place than I was a month ago, but even I feel the gravity of the downward spiral with each turn of the scroll wheel.

STOP IT. Your life is not in here. It's out there, with friends and family. Nothing here will affect what you do out there, so if the Browser of Outrage is stealing your life, kill it. Take that life back.

3) Love someone. Love everyone. Be nice to nobody in particular. Be the change you want to see in the world.

I mean in real life. You can love people online too, but it's way more effective in real life.

4) Do you create? Then create. If you can't create for anything right now, then don't. Create for you. If you can create for a purpose, do that too.
5) Have a booplesnoot.

I Took Two Weeks Off Social Media and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you may have noticed that I took the last two weeks off from social media.

So there were a lot of reasons, but mostly it was my kids being off school for two weeks and the aforementioned big ugly reason I haven't blogged much. (My kids are not related to my anxiety, but both things affect how much time I have to get creative work done).

"Okay, so... what'd you get out of it?"

Right, well first you need to understand how Twitter and Facebook factor into my normal life. 

On a good day, the first thing I do is get through all the e-mails the US sent me while I was sleeping. Then I sift through Twitter/FB (and any associated articles) while I'm eating breakfast. It's my newspaper. I have a couple of lists of people for whom I try to read everything I missed, and for the rest I just read whatever Twitter and Facebook deem important for me to read. I usually do this again at lunch and then at night when I need to decompress.

On a bad day, I will additionally be checking them constantly -- every time Unity compiles, every time Torment loads a new scene, every time I come back from the bathroom, every time I get a glass of water or someone asks me a question or a cat mews outside. Hell, I checked Twitter three times just now while I was writing that sentence.

Lately, I noticed I was having more bad days, hence the social media vacation.

So what happened these two weeks? A list:
  • The first 2-3 days were hard as hell. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. When Unity was compiling, I had to sit there and watch like a chump.
  • I found myself checking fivethirtyeight.com and Izanami's Amazon ranking about ten times more often than their updates can possibly justify.
  • I gathered news from primary news sources. It was super weird.
On the other hand....
  • I had way more time for Torment, my kids, and Shadowrun Hong Kong.
  • I watched the third debate without commentary and it didn't make me mad even a little (exasperated isn't the same as mad, right?).
  • I remembered how to solve Rubik's cube.
  • I didn't get depressed even once.

Let me say that last one again: I DIDN'T GET DEPRESSED EVEN ONCE.

When it came time to get back on, I was actually afraid. Did I want to go back to the monster that sapped 2-3 hours of my day and an immeasurable quantity of my joy?

Well, yes I did. Because among other things, that's how I connect with the world and that's how people connect with me. (The second day of my break, my mom IMed me to say my posts helped her get out of bed in the morning and now she didn't have a reason. I love my mommy.)

But I didn't want to do it the way I had been doing it, so I decided to change a few things.

Limiting the time is easy (for certain values of easy). For one thing, I don't need to read every single damn post that went up since the last time I checked. If I'm afraid of missing something? Hey, look: actual news! For another, I really really really really need to stop checking every time I'm in mid-thought.

Yeah okay, that part's not actually easy. But you know what they say.

How to limit anxiety? I spent a lot of time thinking about that (because I had time, you see). Turns out social media can cause depression (shocker), but why? Well, for me it was mostly all the outrage. There are a lot of legitimate things to be outraged about, but when you're scrolling The Endless Browser of Outrage, it kinda bores into your skull. I mean, that's why you're not supposed to read the comments.

I needed to remember that the world is not outrage. It's mostly pretty mundane -- or even happy -- especially the part of the world that has any effect at all on my life.

So for now, I'm trying to pay closer attention to my emotions as I read. Am I getting upset? Bored? Depressed? Maybe it's time to stop scrolling.

Will I stick with it? God, I hope so. Maybe you can help keep me accountable on that.

I don't know how or whether this applies to anyone else. But having done so I would definitely recommend a break from social media from time to time. And if you do take a long break (like a few days or more), before you turn it on again stop and think about how you want to consume it.

So what's your deal with social media? How do you handle the terrible signal-to-outrage ratio?

Two Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging Much

Reason #1: Because the intersection represented in this not-to-scale diagram is very small.

The red circle is the real killer. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has read this blog before. Something about having 2-3 fulltime jobs and only 24 hours in a day. WHATEVER.

I do tend to talk about things on Twitter and Facebook from time to time, so I'm not silent (most of you probably got here from one of those platforms, so you know). There has just been very little I have required a long-form medium for.

But also, there's been Reason #2:
I know. I completely ruined the Venn diagram thing I had going. But you know what? That's what anxiety does it ruins everything and makes you talk in all-italic run-on sentences.

Before you worry about me too much, don't. My anxiety is relatively mild and hasn't lasted for more than a couple of days at a time (I only had one really bad weekend a few weeks ago). I don't even know that it would count as clinical anxiety. I just know that whenever I thought about writing a post on something, my brain shouted, "HERE ARE ALL THE REASONS YOU SHOULDN'T DO THAT, YOU UTTER SCREW-UP!" and then it would launch a 3-hour marathon of Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.

Mainly, I just had to remind myself to focus on my work, take a walk, get off social media, and talk to my three-dimensional loved ones (though not all at the same time). I won't say my anxiety is over, because the triggers are all still out there, but I'm coping all right.

Anyway, I'm just letting you know the blog still isn't dead. It may never be (because where else would I post long-form thoughts?), and it's definitely not dead now.

So. How are you guys doing?

And hey, how do you deal with anxiety when it pops up in your life (for those of you in whom it does)?

Giveaway winners and the future

The Izanami's Choice signed giveaway is over, and our two winners have been selected. Congratulations to Jeanna M. and Jackie! I've e-mailed the winners and will send out your copies as soon as I can.

For the rest of you, I know. I'm sad, too. I wish I had signed copies for everybody! But you can still buy your own copy at any of these fine places: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Broken Eye Books. I can't sign them for you, but maybe some day. Yeah... some day.

So what's up next? Several things:

1) Torment. We're pushing toward our release (early Q1, 2017), so expect to hear more about that as we get closer.

2) I'm working on my own stuff (specifically, I'm plotting the project listed as "Secret Fantasy Project" on the Works in Progress page).

3) I hope to write more in the world of Izanami's Choice, but that's not up to me yet. (In a way, it's kind of up to you. BUY MY BOOK!)

4) I'm obsessively watching my Amazon sales rank, because I heard you're not really an author until you do that.

5) I'm coming up with the next No Thank You, Evil! campaign for my kids.

6) I'm trying to finish Stranger Things before somebody spoils it for me. I mean spoils it more.

All of which means I'm... still doing more than one human should be capable of in 24 hours. Yeah, I don't know how it works either (most of the time it doesn't, I think).

As always, watch this space (or this one, or this one) for what I'm doing, whether any future giveaways surface, or whatever the latest ridiculous thing my kids' said is. And stick with the newsletter to make sure you don't miss any new fiction I have coming out.

Izanami's Choice Giveaway, less than 2 days left!

Right, folks, if you haven't already entered to win a signed copy of Izanami's Choice well... I'm sure you have a good reason.

If you don't have a good reason, best sign up right now, sirs and madams!

And I'll tell you what. As I write this, there are 200-some entries in the contest (an "entry" being the number in the form there -- it goes up not only when a new person enters but also whenever somebody uses the form to share the contest on Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere). If you guys can get that number up to 400, I will give away an extra signed copy.

So for those of you who look at these contests with a cynical eye (like me), you know that every time you share it, you risk lowering your own chances to win. This will help balance that out: share the contest, get more entries, get other people to enter, and it will increase your chances again by throwing another prize in the pot.

How has the release been going, you say? I'm glad you asked, imaginary straw person. In my experience, having never launched an actual book before, it's been great. And I am in no way unqualified to say that!

(Really, I have a very limited view. Those who have read the book and told me about it have loved it. The book's Amazon sales rank has been a nice, nigh-horizontal line instead of the jagged mountain range it was in pre-order. And John Scalzi even let me borrow his blog for a day. So... good? I guess? This is probably why authors don't talk about this stuff....)

Also, I've received another review, this one from author S.J. Paponas. Here's an excerpt for those of you who are still undecided as to whether or not this book is for you:
I’ve always wanted to write a Japan alternate history book and now I don’t have to because Adam Heine did a wonderful job with IZANAMI’S CHOICE! Rich with culture and tradition, he wove androids into early 1900s Japan and IT MADE SENSE....

The pace of the novella kept me reading furiously all the way to the end. I even read it while I WAS IN JAPAN! And that was such a treat. Itaru’s own demons about a mission gone wrong and his estranged daughter came to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion, and I especially loved the final scene which was a great nod to the samurai way of life.

This was the first book I’ve read by Adam Heine, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I know it sounds like I'm only showing you the good reviews, but the truth is I haven't seen a bad review yet. Seriously.

And for three bucks? There's really no reason not to try it out.

Izanami's Choice Launch Day and Giveaway!

It's here! It's here! Today is launch day for my little samurai sci-fi story Izanami's Choice. E-books have been making their way to people's inboxes, and I've even heard news of paperbacks in the wild. You've bought one, right? Why haven't you bought it yet?!

Here are some of the nice things people have been saying about it so far:
"Choice is a ferocious little genre blender in book form: part Hammett novel, part Kurosawa Samurai epic, part Blade Runner, and entirely obsessed with keeping the reader’s eyes moving from one page to the next." ~ Seattle Weekly

"Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down.  Heine does a great job of building a world replete with rules and history and uses both to construct a mystery with an awful lot of intrigue and surprise." ~ Nerds on Earth

"So if Science Fiction action and exploring cultures through different phases in time is something you enjoy, this is worth a read." ~ SF Reader

"The writing is spectacular, there's fantastic use of period-fantasy-language, and the story is tight, enthralling, and leaves you wondering what's *really* going on right up until the end." ~ Susan Kaye Quinn

"Mr. Heine did an admirable job of making his robots (Jinzou) both sympathetic and terrifying." ~ Victoria Dixon (with interview)

"If you want a really fun, fast-paced robot vs. samurai story then I really think you'll enjoy this." ~ Elena Robertson

And if you can't get enough info (and I'd like to think you can't, because I'm unrealistically optimistic), here are a couple more interviews from the fabulous Natalie Whipple and Authoress. (For you writerly types, Authoress is also running a contest in which you can win a 30-page critique from me, so check that out, too).

But wait! I promised to give away signed copies! To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is subscribe to the newsletter and fill out the form below. I'm very nice to my subscribers -- I give them free excerpts, advanced notice of fiction and giveaways, and I've hardly killed any of them at all!

If you're really ambitious, you can earn additional entries by sharing the giveaway on Facebook or Twitter -- every day, if you want!

This contest is open worldwide. I'll sign 'em and ship 'em anywhere.

I'm offering two signed copies at the moment, but if enough people enter, I'll give away more. So don't hesitate to tell everyone!

Robots in 1901 Japan?

Izanami's Choice comes out in three days. So for the next 72 hours or so, this is me:

Interviews and reviews are trickling in, with more due to appear around the release date. Seattle Weekly loved it, calling it "a ferocious little genre blender in book form: part Hammett novel, part Kurosawa Samurai epic, part Blade Runner, and entirely obsessed with keeping the reader’s eyes moving from one page to the next."

Nerds on Earth said, "Heine does a great job of building a world replete with rules and history and uses both to construct a mystery with an awful lot of intrigue and surprise."

I'm not even kidding! They actually said those things!

On release day, I'll be giving away two signed copies of the book. There may be other giveaways going on around that time too, so watch this space for more info. (Watching Twitter space or Facebook space will also get you what you want). UPDATE: Oh, look! Here's one of them now: a chance at a 30-page critique.

So in Izanami's Choice, Japan has functioning robots and machine intelligence as early as the 19th century. I was recently asked how the heck that's even possible. After all, in our 1901 computers didn't exist then, and things like simple radio technology were still very primitive.

First of all, it should be noted that Japan has had actual automata as early as the 17th century. Karakuri puppets are relatively simplistic  compared to the creations in Izanami's Choice, but it shows the idea of Japanese robots is very old -- much older than the timeline of my novella.

As for machine intelligence, well that's where science fiction comes in. It's primarily a combination of two what-ifs:
  1. What if Charles Babbage had successfully completed his difference engine and analytical engine designs? (This is essentially the same what-if behind The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling).
  2. What if evolutionary programming were discovered around the same time?
The latter would require a variety of factors, like Babbage chatting with Charles Darwin and coming away with programmatic ideas, and 19th-century logicians figuring out how to codify reasoning as mathematic deduction -- not probable, but plausible.

Evolutionary programming is the idea of pitting competing parameters or programs against each other to achieve a certain goal (like getting a computer to handle facial recognition). Those parameters that perform best are then modified further and tested against each other again. This process is repeated until you have a programmatic solution to otherwise difficult problems.

The key idea behind Izanami's Choice, then, is that this method was used with the analytical engines to rapidly improve the design of the engine's programs and even the engine itself. The engine was improved to the point where it could evaluate the results automatically, and then it was improved further to where it could revise the programs itself as well. When that loop was closed, the engine would become capable of revising and improving upon itself at a rapid rate -- a robotic singularity.

Of course the novella doesn't have a big old infodump like this in it, but I do love talking about world-building!