Hey folks, I and my coeditor Liza Olmsted are happy to announce we're looking for stories for THE NEURODIVERSIVERSE ANTHOLOGY, which will explore how neurodivergent folks might have an advantage in dealing with aliens whose thought processes might also be different. From the call for submissions:
The universe is filled with aliens—creatures with different histories, cultures, and even biologies—who may seem strange to us. But our world is filled with a diversity of people, many of whom find each other strange. One particular group finds the rest of humanity especially strange: neurodivergent people.
Would neurodivergent folks find themselves at an advantage in dealing with aliens?
So! I'm back at Dragon Con once again. So good to be back in Atlanta after almost a year! (Well, actually, I was down here a month or so ago, but that was swinging through just for the day zip zap zop to see a little movie answering to no-one, but that's not a real visit in my mind).
The fans are already starting to gather, and so are the curious onlookers, pouncing with questions if you wear a Dragon Con shirt! (Ask me how I know).
This year, I'll mostly be at the Writer's Track, except for my reading on Friday:
Welcome to Writers' Track 2023 - Thu 08:30 pm - Embassy EF Hyatt Join us for an introduction to the best Writers' Track ever! Let us give you a hint of what's coming up for Dragon Con 2023 - and get you started on your way to becoming a professional author, if you aren't already. Panelists: Yasmin Bakhtiari, Anthony Francis, Vanessa Guinta, Nancy Knight(M), John Robinson
Reading Session: Anthony Francis - Fri 02:30 pm - Learning Center Hyatt This will be me reading from my books and essays. Panelists: Uh, the me.
Social Media: Your Friend, Enemy or Frenemy? - Sat 02:30 pm - Embassy EF Hyatt Description: Social media can boost your career or torpedo it. What's a writer's best approach to all the social media, both old and new? How do you develop a strategy that makes sense for your career? Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Venessa Guinta(M), Anthony Francis, Bob McGough, J F Brink, Noel Plaugher
AI and What It Means for Writers - Sun 11:30 am - Embassy EF Hyatt Hearing a lot about the 'takeover' of AI? Let's dispel some of the myths, while we confirm some of the truths. Panelists: Anthony Francis(M), Rich Gatz, Andrew Greenberg, Amie Stepanovich, D.J. Bodden, Phillip Pournelle Note your beanie: possibly the most apropos panel I've ever been on.
Career Advice: WHAT? - Sun 01:00 pm - Embassy EF Hyatt People give advice freely. How to raise your children, save money - they even want to tell you how to develop and maintain your writing career. Who should you listen to? Listen up for some great advice from people who've been there and done that. Panelists: Greg Keyes, Bill Fawcett(M), Anthony Francis, Esther Friesner, Jeanne C Stein, Drew Hayes
How to Be a Professional Writer in One Easy Lesson - Mon 01:00 pm - Embassy EF Hyatt What's the difference between a professional writer and a hack? Let's draw some boundaries… Panelists: Trisha J. Wooldridge(M), Anthony Francis, Mel Todd, Ryan DeBruyn, Richard Lee Byers, Jeffrey L Kohanek
Hope to see you all there!
Pictured: A view from the Hilton Garden Inn, a pretty good hotel to stay in at Dragon Con if you don't mind a walk and if you missed signing up for a closer hotel, Francis.
So far, so good, on the new strategy of starting off with the projects, rather than the maintenance: I've tweeted, checked in with LinkedIn, worked on some non-fiction books, am blogging, and am about to switch gears to writing my Camp Nano entry, SPIRAL NEEDLE.
Jim taked to me about how prioritizing book-writing was critical for his process. I don't really have to do that for fiction - or, more properly, I have structured my entire life around ensuring I have time set aside for fiction writing, so at this point it is practically free - but non-fiction books are new to me.
But one of his other suggestions baffled me, not because it didn't make sense, but because it made too much sense - except I was already doing it, and it wasn't working. Jim pointed out that most people go through periods of vigilance, slump, and recovery during their day, and that as a morning person he reserved book writing, which required critical thinking, for his early vigilant time. Errands like bill-paying worked well for him in the slump, and he felt most creative in the recovery period in the evening.
Okay, great, I thought, I can use this. Already I can see shifting the order I do things in my day - as a night owl, I start my day off in the slump, recover from that, and then get increasingly and increasingly vigilant the further and further I go into the night. (If I have a project due and no obligations the next day, this can go on for hours and hours before exhaustion starts to outpace execution and productivity finally drops).
So maybe switch errands to earlier in the day, I thought, and productivity in the afternoon. But wait a minute: I'm already using my late nights for my most creative time. Why isn't this working.
What I realized is that I have an irregular schedule. In THEORY my late-night time is my most productive time, but in PRACTICE on some nights I get an hour, on some nights I get two (or five) and on some nights I am already so wiped that I really don't get much done at all.
But I do almost always get something done in the morning, even if it takes me time to get rolling. And for me, catching up on papers or writing notes or catching up on my blog is a mostly mechanical activity: it's not that creative thought isn't required, but it isn't to the level of, say, a novel or a scientific paper, where a hard-won sentence may be the result of a half an hour's search tracking down a key reference or fact, or, worse, an hour's worth of brainstorming alone or meeting with others to decide WHAT to write.
So: I can't count on myself to do a creative "chore" - something that has to be done regularly, like blogging or social media, or something that has to be done incrementally over a long period of time, like collating references or thoughts for a non-fiction book - by putting it in my evening creative block. The evening creative block is too irregular, and needs to be reserved for novels and art anyway.
The fix: blog (et al) in the morning.
Let's see how it goes.
Pictured: tomato and lettuce sandwiches for breakfast, with the leftovers of the tomato as a side dish. At the breakfast table is Christopher Bishop's Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, also available as a PDF, the latest of a long series of "difficult breakfast table books" which I laboriously read through, a page at a time - sometimes, one page over several days, until I "get" it - to increase my understanding of the world. Past breakfast table books have included Machine Vision, A New Kind of Science, and Probability Theory: the Logic of Science, the first is out of date now, but the latter two are perennial and highly recommended.
Woohoo! After being just about as behind on a Nano challenge as I have ever been and still won, I managed not only to complete 50,000 words in the month of April, but to blow past it to 53,266 words! Hooray!
To be frank, that steep slope over the top there feels really good, and I'm quite proud of the effort that I put in to make sure I made it this Nano. But, to be equally frank, the steep slope there PRIOR to going over the top really su-u-u-cked, and I pulled two almost-all-nighters (and one actual all-nighter) to finish.
Early in the month, I prioritized Clockwork Alchemy, and the Social Navigation paper, and getting work done in our old house in California that we're trying to renovate. But once I was back in the East Coast, I really had to knuckle down, writing up to 6,000 words a day near the end.
But, by the end, I was so far ahead that the "velocity required" to stay on track actually went negative (as you can see at the very end of the graph). I broke 50,000 words yesterday, but I still had a scene in mind involving the Big Bad of the Jeremiah Willstone stories, the dreaded Black Queen, Victoria. I didn't want to lose that inspiration, so I wrote it today, and the next scene, which is starting to roll back together with other parts I've written already. So now will be a good time to take a break and take stock of my life, to resume editing Dakota Frost #4 SPECTRAL IRON, and to get my new consulting business, Logical Robotics, rolling.
According to my records, I've attempted Nanowrimo challenges (Nanowrimo, Camp Nano, and Script Frenzy) 37 times, with 35 successes, producing over 1.85 million words in successful months. If I'm lucky, and I can keep up the pace, I may crack two million words next year - wish me luck. But I think it's more pressing to get the editing of the existing books done - so wish me even more luck with that.
Oh, one more thing, the excerpt:
“Alive, but deposed,” Jeremiah said, as the proboscis of the thing behind her touched the back of her head—then bit in with a sickening CRACK. “Aaah! Deposed in 1865—or enslaved by the Plague today,” she moaned, as it dug in. “It’s y-your … choice … your … Majesty—”
The Queen raised the pistol. “I am no-one’s slave,” she said, and pulled the—
Falconer Cadet Specialist Jeremiah Willstone awoke with a start. Staring at the ceiling, she tried to hold on to the dream … no. She knew better than that. It felt like a fading dream … but they were echoes of memories, the last remnants of some disruption in time.
The jumbled recollections were slipping away, the tangled thoughts dissipating: canaries and scarabs and plagues and queens. But she remembered at least three key things: there was a war on, in time; her memories would be out of date; and she had to rise to the occasion.
Jeremiah glanced at the clock: 4:45AM on a radium dial that did not look familiar—no, did not look like her style at all, a frilly elegant thing more French than Austrian. She looked over, found what she expected from seeing the clock, and considered. It was late enough.
“Oi, roommate,” Jeremiah sat up, feet off her cot. “Name, rank, year. No joke.”
The human computer on the cot opposite her groaned. “Wha—” the woman muttered, a dark-skinned woman with impressive curls and chest, who managed to make waking up seem elegant. Then one of the vacuum tubes in her head sparked, and she sat bolt upright, blinking.
“The Lady Westenhoq,” the woman whispered icily, then swiveled to look at Jeremiah. “Liberation Academy Cadet. And, like you, Cadet Willstone, I’m a first year.”
“Thank you, Lady Westenhoq,” Jeremiah said quietly, “but I meant the date.”
Westenhoq looked at her, then swiveled her own feet of the cot to face her.
“No, and I … think I’m going to start going by Jeremiah.” She rubbed her face. “Sounds more professional, and pet names remind me of my uncle anyway. But, since you knew my nickname and used it freely, I … take it we’ve worked together before.”
Oh, have they. Prevail, Victoriana!
Pictured: Breakfast at Stax Omega, lots of graphs, and the Camp Nano winner's badge.
SO! I survived the first day of Clockwork Alchemy, and only had to make one trek back to the house from the hotel to pick up something I forgot (something important - my frigging costume, not pictured because I wasn't wearing it). But the convention was great, and we had great talks on Worldbuilding with Madeline Holly-Rosing and Villains and Heroes with Sumiko Saulson and more, and the Author's Alley was delightful.
Most people seemed to think there were more people this year than last, possibly because (a) the hotel is cheaper and easier to stay in and (b) we continue our long slow slide back out of the pandemic. Certainly there were a good number of people at the morning panel, and even more for the afternoon panel.
And the hotel restaurant wasn't bad either! I got to spend some time with some friends in the evening nibbling away at some noshies before driving down to get my costume and some extra books. Oh, that's right - books ...I sold some! But don't worry, I have plenty more ...
Tomorrow I'll be at the following panels:
Science of Airships Saturday 11am – Synergy 5(2nd floor) Anthony Francis Steampunk is more than brown, boots, and buttons: our adventurers must travel the world in style! Learn about the science behind the leviathans of the skies. From how they stay up to how they crash down, explore how the physics of flight gives distinctive shapes to airships past, present and future!
Author Signings: Anthony Francis Saturday 4pm – Convene Lobby(2nd floor) Get your books signed by Anthony Francis.
Secret Hideout or Secret Lair? It’s All What You Do With It. Saturday 5pm – Synergy 5(2nd floor) Stephanie Clemens, Anthony Francis, Michael Tierney Sometimes it’s not obvious who is the hero and who is the villain. We have the traditional heroes, anti-heroes, villains we love to root for, and villains we love to hate. Then there are the redeemed villains and fallen heroes! It’s a slippery slope and a lot of fun to play with as an author and a reader.
Hope to see you all there!
Pictured: Various panels and events from Clockwork Alchemy
Hey folks, the Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention is back, and in a new location, the San Mateo Marriott San Francisco Airport! I’ll have an author table there with all my Jeremiah Willstone books - the CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE and the Thinking Ink Press anthologies TWELVE HOURS LATER, THIRTY DAYS LATER and SOME TIME LATER, and much more, including the Dakota Frost urban fantasy series and my science fiction writing!
I will be at two author signings and four - count them, FOUR panels, including World Building, Who’s the Villain, Science of Airships, Secret Hideout or Secret Lair, and Getting Past Page One - hey, wait a minute, that is five, I counted them, FIVE panels! I may need a nap after all that. But not before I’ve signed a book or given a talk for you!
Time and Location:
Clockwork Alchemy 2023 Friday April 7 - Sunday April 9 San Mateo Marriott San Francisco Airport 1770 South Amphlett Blvd San Mateo, California 94402
And here's where you can find me:
World Building Friday 1pm - Synergy 5 (2nd floor) Anthony Francis, Madeleine Holly-Rosing Come and find out what's necessary to create a living, breathing world for your characters, whether you're writing a book or running an RPG.
From the Darkly Ironic to the Moody Byronic: Who’s the Villain Here? Friday 4pm - Synergy 5(2nd floor) Sumiko Saulson, Anthony Francis From the ghosts haunting Ebenezer Scrooge to Dr. Frankenstein’s childlike creature, Victorian horror embraced a new class of complicated, morally ambivalent heroes and villains such as Prince Prospero, Carmilla, and Dorian Gray. If Mr. Hyde is a part of Dr. Jekyll, who is really the villain here?
Science of Airships Saturday 11am - Synergy 5(2nd floor) Anthony Francis Steampunk is more than brown, boots, and buttons: our adventurers must travel the world in style! Learn about the science behind the leviathans of the skies. From how they stay up to how they crash down, explore how the physics of flight gives distinctive shapes to airships past, present and future!
Author Signings: Anthony Francis Saturday 4pm - Convene Lobby(2nd floor) Get your books signed by Anthony Francis.
Secret Hideout or Secret Lair? It's All What You Do With It. Saturday 5pm - Synergy 5(2nd floor) Stephanie Clemens, Anthony Francis, Michael Tierney Sometimes it's not obvious who is the hero and who is the villain. We have the traditional heroes, anti-heroes, villains we love to root for, and villains we love to hate. Then there are the redeemed villains and fallen heroes! It’s a slippery slope and a lot of fun to play with as an author and a reader.
Getting Past Chapter One Sunday 2pm - Synergy 5(2nd floor) Stephanie Clemens, Anthony Francis, Michael Tierney Why being perfect keeps you away from finishing your book.
Author Signings Sunday 3pm - Convene Lobby(2nd floor) Shelley Adina, Madeleine Holly-Rosing, David L. Drake, Katherine L. Morse, Michael Tierney, Belinda Sikes, Dover Whitecliff, Stephanie Clemens, Anthony Francis, Thena MacArthur, Sumiko Saulson Last call! Get your books signed by any of our authors at Clockwork Alchemy 2023.
No, I'm not giving up on blogging at a rate of once per day this year, even if I am already roughly forty percent behind. But my top focus now that I'm outside the Google firewall is to get back to work: after two and a half months of uncertainty following my layoff from Google, the paperwork is now done: the End Date has passed, the Severance is signed, the laptops have been shipped back to the office, and, excepting a bit of COBRA / IRA business, I be done with all that.
But my research isn't done. Coincidentally, I had a few scientific papers-in-flight going when the layoffs happened; not coincidentally, I dove in to making sure those went out. One is under review, with a possibility that we may need to open-source the code, but another has already been published, at the Workshop on Human-Robot Interaction in Academia and Industry. This is a "splinter paper," a small topical paper we forked out of a larger journal article in preparation, and that journal paper needs to go out.
Nor is my work done. Today is Camp Nano, the start of yet another 50,000 word challenge, and I hope to finish the novel-in-progress, JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE PLAGUE OF GEARS, which my friend Tony Sarrecchia is helping me adapt into a series of audio dramas. And I need to finish editing Dakota Frost #4, SPECTRAL IRON, at which I recently made a lot of progress solving plot problems - and for which I recently conducted a research trip to Jack Kerouac Avenue to scope out the site of a battle.
That doesn't even count the game artificial intelligence work I want to do, or the games I want to write, or the drawing I want to do, or my new interest in music, or the regular robotics research I want to get started under the Logical Robotics banner.
My point is, "work" for "the man" should not define you. At least, it doesn't define me: it inspired me, definitely, in many ways, but as for now ... I'm tanked up with my own projects, thanks.
Back to work.
Pictured: Breakfast of the First Day of the New Era, sending back the laptops, Jack Kerouac Alley.