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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October News Update

Again, it's been a while. And for once I'm not feeling particularly prolix, so I'll just give various bits and pieces of news and then be back upon my way.
  • A couple of my stories have been released in the past month. "Embers", a crime story, is in the second volume of short stories published by Plan B. And "Editorial Discretion" was published by Perihelion SF. There doesn't appear to be a way to directly link to the story on Perihelion's site but as of today, it's available on their "Shorter Stories" page.
  • In addition to my ongoing work at Kazka Press, where I edit the monthly flash fiction contests, I am also now on staff at Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi as co-Editor with Kelly Stiles. The first issue which she and I edited has come out and we've got some cool stories lined up for future months. We're not currently open to submissions, but will be sometime in November. At the moment, we're looking for first reader applications through the end of October, to ensure that we have a good number of people on staff for quick turnaround on submissions.
  • I've had a couple of story sales in the past month or so. "Bedtime Stories" has sold to Lakeside Circus and will be in their inaugural issue and "Lakeside Memories" has sold to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I'm especially excited to be appearing, for the first time, in one of the major digest fiction magazines.
  • I appeared at Context last month and will be at Philcon in the Philadelphia area in early November. If you're going to be at Philcon, make sure to say hello! I'm not on programming at Philcon, since I wasn't sure I would be going until a few weeks back, so I should have plenty of time to socialize.
It seems that there should be more to say, but nothing else in particular is coming to mind. I continue to write and submit and I hope that before long I'll have more good news to share.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Checking In

I've been away from the blog for a while so I figured it would be good to stop by and put up an update.

There's not a whole lot particularly new to report. The biggest thing, by far, would be the release of Kwik Krimes last week. I'm still thrilled to have a story of mine in an anthology edited by Otto Penzler and on top of that, the book itself is in stock at our local Barnes & Noble. I haven't stopped by yet to visit "my" book in person, but I plan to do so and I might even have the opportunity to do an author event next month. If anything develops on that front, I'll be sure to let everyone know here.

I've been continuing to work on writing and submitting though the writing part of it dropped off pretty dramatically in July and August. So much that I've decided to reinstate my daily 500 word (or 45 minutes of revisions) goal for the month of September. I got off to a good start last night, writing a story for the weekly Liberty Hall flash contest. It's rough, but I think it's got potential once I put some more work into it.

In convention news, I'll be attending Context 26 later this month and will be doing a reading and a couple of panels. If you're going to be at the convention and want to meet up, let me know. Also, I was very excited by the news that Detroit's bid won for the 2014 NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention, held when Worldcon is outside North America). That's going to be a must-attend for me next year. And there's an odd touch of synchronicity for me, personally here. I've actually been to one NASFiC before, when I was but a wee lad and my parents went to the 1979 one in Louisville. I even have a program book from it somewhere. The Guest of Honor at that convention was Frederik Pohl who, word came out today, died over the weekend. I'd just recently picked up a collection of his and C. M. Kornbluth's short fiction and I plan to read a couple of stories from it tonight.

I haven't been good about setting (or keeping) monthly goals the past two months. My single goal for September will be to stick to the daily writing routine as described above. My intention is to get back to more detailed goal-setting come October.

Finally, a bit of Kazka Press news. Our new issue will be coming out any day now with three stories and we're open for submissions on the theme of "Outsiders." We recently tweaked our word limits, so the acceptable range is now 500-1000 words. Also, we have a new submissions email address. We'll still be checking the old address for submissions for the time being, but it would be best to send them to the new address. All the guidelines, including that new submissions email address, are here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Watching Citizen Kane in A Movie Palace

I'd never seen the movie "Citizen Kane" before this month.


Somehow the idea had gotten into my head that the first time I saw Kane should be not on video but in a theater. And somehow I stuck to that idea from whenever it first came to me, probably in college, up to the present. I think I'd had a few chances to see Kane on a big screen which hadn't worked out in the intervening years. Finally, I set aside time to go see it at the Ohio Theatre as part of CAPA's Summer Movie Series. Not even car trouble kept me from finally getting to go see Orson Welles' famous movie.


Before the movie, at intermission, and after the movie there was live organ music. The Ohio Theatre's organ is bright white (bright enough to make taking a photo of it with my phone difficult) and it raises and lowers into the orchestra pit. I remember, as a child, finding that fascinating and disturbing. (Even the phrase "orchestra pit" suggested something that was more suited for Indiana Jones than musicians to my young mind.)