Sunday, June 21, 2015

Remembering My Father #1: Eulogy Given At His Funeral

I've been away from this blog for a long time. There are a number of factors there, but the most significant was the illness and death of my father, Steven Haynes, earlier this year.

It's Father's Day today and it seems as good a time as any to do something I'd been meaning to do and start a series of posts of the remembrances of him which I wrote after his passing.

This was what I wrote for when I spoke at his funeral:
Growing up around my dad, seeing him every day, I didn’t have the best perspective on just how remarkable he was. I know now that not every kid has a father who sings in the symphony chorus or a father who taught themselves to be a professional computer programmer because he felt he could write better programs than the ones he was using. Or a father who founded and cultivated a classic film convention attended over its nearly fifty years by thousands of people, some of them travelling from other continents to attend. Working more closely with Cinevent recently, I’ve realized that even more than the size of the convention, the remarkable thing about it is the place it holds in the hearts of those who attend. So many people have talked about how Cinevent is one of the highlights of their year and how they came to know Steve Haynes through attending the convention over the decades. Quite a few of them had anecdotes to tell about how he did something to make the convention special for them. He was remarkable, but I just saw him as Dad.

Even if I didn’t see clearly how special his accomplishments were, I knew that he was cool, and fun to spend time with. There are so many ways his personality is reflected in my life. He was the person who introduced me to computer programming, which became in turn my own career. I remember us typing in programs out of magazines on our Commodore computers and him teaching me specific techniques when I started writing programs of my own. He used funny voices to tell stories with. Sometimes those voices even creeped me out a bit but when I’m reading to my own children, I do that too. My taste in reading, music and movies are all heavily influenced by the things he introduced me to, both as a child and later in life. A new trailer for this year’s Star Wars movie came out just days before dad passed away and, watching it, I was reminded that he and I once went to see this really mediocre Wing Commander movie just because it had a trailer for the first of the Star Wars prequels running with it. When I go to see this year’s movie, dad will be right there with me.

Dad and I had a conversation several weeks ago, one where we talked about some of the things that were important to him for us to talk about while we could. Among the things we talked about was my writing, which he encouraged me to continue. As it happens, one of the stories I wrote in January, right before dad’s diagnosis, was about a son learning to accept his own place in the world with the passing of his father. It’s not a lesson that I had expected to be learning myself anywhere near this soon. But I’m grateful for the time I had with him and know that he did his best to give me the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to have a joyful life.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 Year in Review

2014 was in many ways a step backward for me in terms of my fiction writing. While I sold one more story than in 2013 (and still sold quite a few stories in general), I didn't break into any notable new markets and I only sold to one SFWA-qualifying market in 2014. Just as important, I didn't feel as if I wrote stories in 2014 which would be likely to help me break into new markets.

There were some good things. I received my contributor's copies of my first major digest publication ("Lakeside Memories" in the February, 2015 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine). One of my stories was listed as an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year. Another of my stories made the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List. And my acceptance ratio was up a bit from 2013.

Overall, I made a total of 174 non-reprint submissions in 2014. I received 199 responses, some of which were for submissions sent in 2013. (Conversely, some of my 2014 submissions did not receive responses during the calendar year.) For those submission responses:
  • Five submissions received no reply.
  • Two submissions were withdrawn.
  • I had 17 acceptances. (I also had a paying reprint acceptance.)
  • And I had 175 rejections.
Of the 18 paying acceptances:
  • Two were to pro-rate SFWA-qualifying markets.
  • Four were to pro-rate markets not on the SFWA list.
  • Seven were to semi-pro markets, this includes the reprint sale.
  • Five were to markets which pay, but either have a per-word rate below semi-pro rates or which pay a flat rate which can fals below semi-pro. For at least one of these, my pay worked out to pro rates, but I still classify it here.
I sold 18 different stories in 2014:
  • Seven of those were flash length (1,000 words or fewer), including the reprint.
  • Seven were between 1,001 and 3,000 words.
  • Four were over 3,000 words.
  • Nine were science fiction stories.
  • Six were fantasy stories.
  • Three were horror stories.
The length breakdowns were very similar to 2013. I had more SF sales this year and fewer fantasy.

I hesitate to call any year where I sold seventeen stories "disappointing" but the fact is that I think I can do better, so in that sense, it was. I'm going to work at improving my writing and submission process and will hope that the work leads to an even better 2015.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"The Victor" - My story in "Not Our Kind"

The Kickstarter for the "Not Our Kind" anthology is in its home stretch, with only about four and a half days left as I write this post. It stands a bit over 60% funded at this point and since Kickstarter is all or nothing (a project either meets its funding goal and gets funded or does not meet it and gets nothing -- the backers are not charged anything either in that case), I'll be watching it closely over the next few days hoping for the best.

My story which is slated to be in the anthology is called "The Victor." I wrote the first draft of this story just a little less than a year ago, while I was in Philadelphia for the 2013 Philcon. The Liberty Hall Writers website has a weekly prompted writing contest for its members. The prompt that weekend showed fireworks in the sky over a road and my mind went to an image of a lone man walking on that road under those fireworks. He had won a battle, single combat, but the cost of that victory was something quite unusual and the rest of his life would never be the same.

When editor Nayad Monroe invited me to submit to the Not Our Kind anthology I knew right away that "The Victor" was the story I wanted to send for her consideration. I took the story through some revisions and sent it off, quite close to the last minute of her submission window for the invited authors. I was thrilled when she accepted the story for the anthology and I'm looking forward to hearing what readers think of the story.

But for that to happen, the Kickstarter needs to succeed. So if you're interested in reading my story as well as stories by the other Not Our Kind authors (Alex Bledsoe, Ekaterina Sedia, Lucy A. Snyder, Tim Waggoner, Damien Angelica Walters, and many others) then now is the time to stop by Kickstarter and back the project.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Recent News: Mid-October 2014

I've had two stories published in the past month:
I've also recently had two stories accepted for publication, both of which should be coming out in November. "Final Mission" will be appearing at T. Gene Davis's Speculative Blog and "Uplifting" will be in the November issue of Musa Publishing's short fiction magazine Penumbra. Both of these are also science fiction stories.

Finally, I have a fantasy short story in the forthcoming Alliteration Ink anthology "Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging." That anthology is currently Kickstarting; I'll be writing more about the anthology and my story in a blog post before long.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Taking Flight

Years ago I'd read some blogs where the authors were creating lists of 101 things to do in 1000 days. I thought it was a really cool idea and spent some time making my own list. I've always talked a lot on this blog about the importance to me of goals and that list was a way of documenting goals. I put a decent amount of thought into it and did a fair number of the things on the list before losing steam on it after several months.

(One of the things which I did as part of that list was write some stories. Five of those have been published or are contracted to be published. In fact, the last one of those which was still circulating just sold in the past month or so.)

I took another look at the list recently and saw some things that I'd still like to do. And while I haven't created a new formal list yet, I've been actively marking off some of the things which were on the old list or would be on a new list during the past couple of months.

Something which wasn't on the old list but which sprung to mind when thinking about additions to a list was taking a flying lesson. A college friend of mine had gotten his private pilot's license quite a while back, and I remember finding his blog posts on the subject interesting reading. By coincidence, while I was having lunch with a coworker who I hadn't really spoken with in years it came up that this coworker was working on his own IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) pilot license. (VFR, or Visual Flight Rules, is the initial level of licensure. IFR requires additional training and study.) Since the idea of taking a flight lesson was on the top of my mind, I asked him if there was an instructor he would recommend. He recommended his own instructor, another coworker, and just that quick I had the instructor's contact information and then a lesson scheduled for six PM this evening.

Last night and today I was actively watching the weather, trying to determine if the flight would be able to happen or not. Mid-afternoon I got a message from the instructor that we were a go. But even getting ready to head down, I noticed some pop-up showers on the radar and wondered if the flight might be scrubbed.

I arrived at Fairfield County Airport shortly before six PM and my instructor, Jim, greeted me. We walked around the plane doing an extensive pre-flight check. I knew that such checks were part of flying but I was still surprised at the level of detail involved -- checking individual nuts, ensuring that various pieces of the plane had appropriate ranges of motion, etc. After about 30-40 minutes of this, it was time to climb into the plane. First, though, Jim pulled it out of the hanger. Literally pulled it.

We went through the rest of the pre-flight checklist, put on our headsets, and Jim had me taxi the plane around a bit. This was -- no joke -- the most difficult part of the whole experience for me. Steering the plane on the ground involves using foot pedals in a way that I found rather difficult to get comfortable with. I sort of managed, but needed some assistance from time to time. Then we were lined up with the runway and it was time for me to get the plane in the air.

Yes. Time for me to get the plane in the air. Jim and I had talked about this, so I knew I was going to be doing it, but it still was a bit nerve-wracking to have my very first actually flying-a-plane experience be getting it up off the ground. Keeping my hand on the throttle, watching the airspeed indicator, etc. It felt like a lot to be thinking about. But then before long we were leveling off. My first takeoff was complete!

We spent the next hour flying over the general Fairfield County area. When I say "we", I mostly mean "I" since I did probably 90% of the flying prior to the landing. I did ask Jim to take the controls briefly so I could take a few pictures. Here are two of them, taken from the pilot's seat.

There did end up being some rain around and we were steering away from it off and on. I do wish that I had thought to ask Jim to take the controls briefly at one point because there was a truly impressive view of a rain storm in the sort-of-kind-of-distance through the cockpit window at one point.

Before long, the hour was up and it was time for us to land. Jim offered to give me a role in the landing, but I decided that I would observe rather than participate in it. The landing was very smooth and I helped with taxiing the plane back to the hangar. No sooner had we gone through the post-flight checklist but rain started pouring down.

After the flight, Jim and I chatted for a while in the hangar. The process of getting a pilot's license isn't cheap, and realistically I don't see myself putting in the requisite number of hours in the near future. But I did say that I'd like to get up in the air again sometime this summer and, who knows, maybe next time I'll be the one doing the landing!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Still Here, Still Writing

It's been months and months since I posted here. I can't say that I feel like there's a whole lot of information that I haven't passed along, despite that. I've had a few stories sell and a few get published. My Publications Page is up to date. The big thing I'm looking forward to, presumably later this year, will be my first appearance in one of the major print digests. "Lakeside Memories" is due to come out in an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I wouldn't be surprised if it is in an issue dated for or released around Halloween.

Kazka Press, where I had some of my first sales before taking over as editor, is shutting down with the May issue. I'm kind of bummed about that, but deciding to shut down while we were still relatively on top of things was the right thing to do. Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi, where I co-edit with Kelly Stiles, has been doing well. We've published some really cool stories there and are a full semi-pro publication now (offering at least a penny a word for all fiction acceptances). And the Unidentified Funny Objects series edited by Alex Shvartsman, for which I'm one of the Associate Editors, is heading to a third volume.

And I keep plugging along with writing new words. I'm not as rigorous about writing every day as I used to be, but I still keeping moving forward.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

If 2012 was a fantastic year for me on the short fiction front, 2013 was... a decent year. Frankly, I'm honestly tempted to classify it as a very good year solely on the basis of my sale of a story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Getting a story into one of the big print digest magazines has long been one of my personal goals, so that was a Big Deal. The "problem" (such as it is) is that when you leave that single sale aside, the year was only so-so. I didn't sell to any other notable new markets, I sold fewer stories than in 2012, etc.

Overall, I made a total of 299 non-reprint submissions in 2013. I received 275 responses, some of which were for submissions sent in 2012. (Conversely, some of my 2013 submissions did not receive responses during the calendar year.) For those submission responses:
  • Six submissions received no reply.
  • Three submissions were withdrawn.
  • I had 16 acceptances. (I also had a paying reprint acceptance and four non-paying reprint acceptances.)
  • And I had 249 rejections.
Of the 17 paying acceptances:
  • Six were to pro-rate SFWA/MWA-qualifying markets. (Including the EQMM story here.)
  • One was to a pro-rate market not on the SFWA list.
  • Five were to semi-pro markets.
  • Five were to markets which pay, but either have a per-word rate below semi-pro rates or which pay a flat rate which generally falls below semi-pro, including the reprint sale.
So, the good news is that the decrease in sales came from the semi-pro and token rate markets.

I sold 17 different stories in 2012:
  • Five of those were flash length (1,000 words or fewer)
  • Eight were between 1,001 and 3,000 words.
  • Four were over 3,000 words.
  • Eight were fantasy stories.
  • Five were science fiction stories.
  • Two were mystery stories.
  • Two were horror stories.
The genre breakdowns were pretty similar to 2012. Probably the most notably item in the above is that the percentage of stories which I sold at flash length decreased significantly from 50% to a bit over 25%.

So, the net is fewer sales but a higher percentage to pro-rate markets and a higher percentage of greater than flash fiction length. I'll call it a good year, yes. But I hope to have an even better one in 2014.