Happy New Year! It's long past time for an update here, methinks! So, let's start with fun stuff:

Public appearances

On October 25, I gave a short reading with two awesome spec-fic writers, Don Allmon and Benjamin D. Cartwright, from our novels-in-progress. At The Raven Book Store in Lawrence.
I've been on the "Central Standard" on NPR's Kansas City station: KCUR, 89.3 FM show a couple of times in the past month or so:

Writing

Reached 115,270 words as of this morning on Ad Astra Road Trip (book 1 of 3 in The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella). Since completing final grades for Fall semester last week, I've nearly finished the draft of the novel. But being so close to the end reveals many things that require going back through and consistifying, enhancing, filling out, and so forth. I've revised the persistent metaphors and imagery for Stella and Jack, rewritten dialogue, cut extraneous language, etc etc. To paraphrase James Gunn, writing is all about revision: You don't know really what you're doing until you've finished the draft - that's when the real writing begins. SO CLOSE to the end. How much is left? Let's call it less than 10k more. My goal is to wrap up the first complete draft before the start of Spring semester... that's less than two weeks from now, and I have a lot of Work-work to do in that time, as well. Eeek. Wish me luck. (PS: Considering I'd initially targeted 70k words, that means I'm almost done with Book Two? Right? Um, yeah, I don't think it works that way.)

Published a couple nonfiction pieces: "Frederik Pohl: Mr Science Fiction (A Love Story)" for Foundation, and a memorial piece about Fred for Elizabeth Anne Hull's Fredzine: The Frederik Pohl Memorial 'Zine, shared with attendees of the Frederik Pohl Memorial Celebration on August 2.

Wrote another half-dozen fragmentary bits for my memoir, Stories from a Perilous Youth. Really looking forward to diving in to that after sending J&S off for agential attentions.

Sold "Orpheus' Engines" (short story) to the original anthology, Mission Tomorrow: A New Century Of Exploration, due out from Baen next fall.

Also got my largest royalty check to date for Transcendence, which feels pretty awesome, considering that the book came out four years ago! (Four years. Gods.)

Personal

I don't know if I've said here, but my mom died on October 4. It's been really on my mind a lot, especially lately.
*

Once again, you're a lot more likely to see things from me over on my Tumblr (mckitterick), but I still drop in here from time to time. It's my homeland!

Best,
Chris
Classes start tomorrow: Excited! I always love the spring "Science, Technology, and Society" course, and even the "Foundations of Technical Writing" course is satisfying (doing two sections). Also doing a couple of Advanced Technical Writing and Editing sections, but they're very small this semester, and they'll be helping on projects I need to write anyway. Plus one or two independent study SF students. So, overall, WAY fewer classes and students than last semester.

So what did I do with my winter break? First and foremost, recovered from a semester wherein I taught 10 courses (three large, three medium, and an assortment of courses with 1-3 students in them). What was I thinking? Well, I figured that, because most of them contained only a student or three, it would be no big deal. WRONG. If you are a teacher, DON'T EVER DO THIS. A class is a class, regardless of how many people enroll, and often those 1-3 person classes consumed more an hour every week. Now add three sections of technical writing (16 writing projects times 70 students) and the others, and WHOA. Oh, and I do try to have a writing career and life in there, too. I'm learning better how to say, "No." That's a toughie for me.

So after recovering a bit (this included watching the box-sets of Harry Potter, among other things), I did a lot of neglected house, garage, and yard-work; tinkered with the vehicles; hung out a bunch with people; and did finally build up enough reserves to get some writing done. This included tons of outlining, scene-writing, and other work on The True-Life Space Adventures of Jack and Stella; lots of thinking and outlining on my keynote talk for the University of Central Oklahoma's Liberal Arts Symposium on science fiction and the liberal arts; and even resumed work on my memoir, Stories from a Perilous Youth. I didn't finish any writing projects, but them's the breaks when working on book-length things.

Yesterday I got my 1978 BMW R100S up and running again! Took some create effort to reassemble the frame (I had to disassemble it to remove a dead battery), do some rust and wiring repairs, and get the fuel system operational again, but it was still in the 50s yesterday afternoon when I went for a ride. ON MY MOTORCYCLE. IN JANUARY. I'm just sayin'. Awesomeness. Even got a photo when I visited some friends who had never seen the bike running before. That's satisfying. Next up: painting and installing the vintage Hannigan fairing I picked up a couple of years ago. I've decided to go with red to match the tank and seat frame rather than the color-fade orange of the front fender (and side-panel lettering, thus likely the original color). I have other (evil) plans in mind, too, that involve giving this bike a bit of Mad Max character... bwahahahaha!

A few days ago I had to carve the lock out of my back door. Long story. Let's just say that a variety of power tools, pry bars, and other implements were involved. This could have been an awful experience, but thanks to [profile] chernobylred, it actually turned out to be an adventure. One I needn't repeat, mind you, but an adventure nonetheless. I can't tell you how much fun it is to Sawzall a much-despised sliding-glass door. The having-to-replace-it-now part is less fun, but I'm thinking of going all Mad Max with this, too, using steel plates and an absurdly over-the-top lock while I consider back-door options. Video of the carnage to come (seriously).

Also, this: A crow sledding down a snowy rooftop:


Hope your holidays were wonderful, too. Happy New Year!

Best,
Chris
Part 2 of the new series:

I must have been about 13 when I decided to build a hang-glider. I mean, who doesn't want to fly? I subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine, and in the back were various and sundry black-and-white ads for plans to build everything from water purifiers to go-karts to ultralight helicopters, so surely it was within an adolescent boy's reach to make a hang-glider in the garage while his parents were off at work, right? I mean, it's just a big kite. I loved kites, even made myself a box-kite once. So I set out to build myself a hang-glider. I was going to fly! How hard could it be?

Even back then in the Paleozoic, one could easily find dimensions and designs for such devices (far more modern and safe than the bi-wing shown in the photo), so I set out to find suitable materials to build my own aircraft. Fourteen-foot wingspan? Check! Cross-frame skeleton? Check! Tensioned upper and lower struts? Check! I even made a control bar from which I would hang and lean to steer the craft by the maze of control wires attaching the bar to the framework above.

I should clarify a bit: As I was a kid working with zero budget, the materials weren't exactly up to FAA standards. So rather than aircraft-grade aluminum tubing, I used scrap wood trim from a house under construction in the neighborhood. Similarly, rather than rip-stop nylon for the sail, I used clear plastic sheeting - also construction leftovers. Control bar? Wooden dowel. Control wires? Twine, as was the harness. And everything was held together with tape and staples. The height of 13-year-old engineering and manufacturing skills. Seemed plenty sturdy in the back yard!

A couple of friends were more than willing to help me haul it up the steep hillside near my house. I lived in a little neighborhood about two miles from Ortonville proper (western Minnesota, almost in South Dakota), so once we climbed up from the forested neighborhood, this was all grassland - until one reached the top of the hill, where the golf course (of last story's fame) lived at an altitude of about 500 feet above the river valley. Windy, too, across the road and above the trees: The perfect spot to catch an updraft, thought I. So up we trudged, a friend supporting each wingtip while I carried the craft from its center. It was reasonably light, seeming especially so whenever a breeze tried to snatch it from our fingers. (There's a bit of foreshadowing: This lightweight construction would prove to be its undoing.)

We reached the top of the hill and turned around to prep for launch. It was a warm, breezy June afternoon, pillowy clouds gliding past the sun, all manner of trees swaying in the breeze far below, Big Stone Lake huge and dark just a few blocks away, busy road between me and all that pretty valley stuff. Insects buzzing and all that. Probably a hawk soaring majestically overhead. I should note that this is exactly the worst launch point for gliding that I could have found, but, hey, we were too young to drive, and what did we know?




So I cranked up my courage and nodded to my friends, then started running downhill with them helping balance the wings. Almost instantly, the wind yanked me and my huge kite out of their hands as my feet left the ground. I was flying! It took off skyward nose-first, and if I hadn't been so busy thinking, "Holy crap! I'm flying!" I would have tried to keep from such a steep climb. Within seconds, the glider had rocketed upward nearly 10 feet... while at the same time the hill fell away even faster, as it was pretty steep. I think I laughed aloud, though I was pretty busy trying to figure out how to steer by shifting my weight.

But all was not Pepsi and bubblegum: The same helpful wind that dragged me skyward also applied pretty serious torque to the wooden skeleton and simple fasteners that comprised the structure of my aircraft. Just as I began to steer, I heard a mighty crack, and almost as soon as that sound registered as sub-optimal, I was Icarus, slain by hubris. Down we fell, wings folding upward where the cross-brace cracked and twine tore loose of its moorings; down, down, plastic sheeting flapping in the wind like some great, prehistoric, dying bird. The hard back of the unforgiving ground rose up to meet us, but I was falling too fast to land gracefully on such a steep slope. What followed was a tumbling and cracking and crumpling as hang-glider wrapped its arms around me - its staple-studded arms, broken and full of slivers and lengths of entangling twine as the sail tore free and engulfed me like a blanket. A blanket embroidered with countless pointy bits. Because I carried a good deal of momentum and we were on a long slope, we rolled like that for what felt like hours before coming to a stop at the lip of a drop-off overlooking the road.

I couldn't really move at this point, bound and bloodied as I was within my ruined flying machine, but I lived! And I had flown! What were a few (hundred) bruises and cuts? I had flown in my own home-made hang-glider!

Not that I've repeated this adventure, mind you. But someday I'll fly again. Just maybe with better materials. Or perhaps in a flying machine made by professionals.
Part 2 of the new series:

I must have been about 13 when I decided to build a hang-glider. I mean, who doesn't want to fly? I subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine, and in the back were various and sundry black-and-white ads for plans to build everything from water purifiers to go-karts to ultralight helicopters, so surely it was within an adolescent boy's reach to make a hang-glider in the garage while his parents were off at work, right? I mean, it's just a big kite. I loved kites, even made myself a box-kite once. So I set out to build myself a hang-glider. I was going to fly! How hard could it be?

Even back then in the Paleozoic, one could easily find dimensions and designs for such devices (far more modern and safe than the bi-wing shown in the photo), so I set out to find suitable materials to build my own aircraft. Fourteen-foot wingspan? Check! Cross-frame skeleton? Check! Tensioned upper and lower struts? Check! I even made a control bar from which I would hang and lean to steer the craft by the maze of control wires attaching the bar to the framework above.

I should clarify a bit: As I was a kid working with zero budget, the materials weren't exactly up to FAA standards. So rather than aircraft-grade aluminum tubing, I used scrap wood trim from a house under construction in the neighborhood. Similarly, rather than rip-stop nylon for the sail, I used clear plastic sheeting - also construction leftovers. Control bar? Wooden dowel. Control wires? Twine, as was the harness. And everything was held together with tape and staples. The height of 13-year-old engineering and manufacturing skills. Seemed plenty sturdy in the back yard!

A couple of friends were more than willing to help me haul it up the steep hillside near my house. I lived in a little neighborhood about two miles from Ortonville proper (western Minnesota, almost in South Dakota), so once we climbed up from the forested neighborhood, this was all grassland - until one reached the top of the hill, where the golf course (of last story's fame) lived at an altitude of about 500 feet above the river valley. Windy, too, across the road and above the trees: The perfect spot to catch an updraft, thought I. So up we trudged, a friend supporting each wingtip while I carried the craft from its center. It was reasonably light, seeming especially so whenever a breeze tried to snatch it from our fingers. (There's a bit of foreshadowing: This lightweight construction would prove to be its undoing.)

We reached the top of the hill and turned around to prep for launch. It was a warm, breezy June afternoon, pillowy clouds gliding past the sun, all manner of trees swaying in the breeze far below, Big Stone Lake huge and dark just a few blocks away, busy road between me and all that pretty valley stuff. Insects buzzing and all that. Probably a hawk soaring majestically overhead. I should note that this is exactly the worst launch point for gliding that I could have found, but, hey, we were too young to drive, and what did we know?




So I cranked up my courage and nodded to my friends, then started running downhill with them helping balance the wings. Almost instantly, the wind yanked me and my huge kite out of their hands as my feet left the ground. I was flying! It took off skyward nose-first, and if I hadn't been so busy thinking, "Holy crap! I'm flying!" I would have tried to keep from such a steep climb. Within seconds, the glider had rocketed upward nearly 10 feet... while at the same time the hill fell away even faster, as it was pretty steep. I think I laughed aloud, though I was pretty busy trying to figure out how to steer by shifting my weight.

But all was not Pepsi and bubblegum: The same helpful wind that dragged me skyward also applied pretty serious torque to the wooden skeleton and simple fasteners that comprised the structure of my aircraft. Just as I began to steer, I heard a mighty crack, and almost as soon as that sound registered as sub-optimal, I was Icarus, slain by hubris. Down we fell, wings folding upward where the cross-brace cracked and twine tore loose of its moorings; down, down, plastic sheeting flapping in the wind like some great, prehistoric, dying bird. The hard back of the unforgiving ground rose up to meet us, but I was falling too fast to land gracefully on such a steep slope. What followed was a tumbling and cracking and crumpling as hang-glider wrapped its arms around me - its staple-studded arms, broken and full of slivers and lengths of entangling twine as the sail tore free and engulfed me like a blanket. A blanket embroidered with countless pointy bits. Because I carried a good deal of momentum and we were on a long slope, we rolled like that for what felt like hours before coming to a stop at the lip of a drop-off overlooking the road.

I couldn't really move at this point, bound and bloodied as I was within my ruined flying machine, but I lived! And I had flown! What were a few (hundred) bruises and cuts? I had flown in my own home-made hang-glider!

Not that I've repeated this adventure, mind you. But someday I'll fly again. Just maybe with better materials. Or perhaps in a flying machine made by professionals.
A friend going through a difficult patch requested a funny story. Not being a joke-teller, I wrote up a tale from my childhood, and thought I'd share it here, and figured I oughta make this a regular feature. So, without further ado, here's the story of how I quit smoking:

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grades, one of my best friends stole a case (as in dozens of cartons) of cigarettes from the country club where he worked. Being generous - at least with ill-begotten goods - he supplied me with as many cigarettes as I could smoke. We rode our bicycles all around the town of Ortonville and our two-stroke dirt-bikes across the western Minnesota countryside for several weeks, cigs dangling rakishly from between our lips, chain-smoking everywhere we went to the tune of about five packs per day. Each. We thought we looked pretty damned good.

After participating as hard as I could in this attempt to be cool, I developed a cough. Amazing, I know. It got pretty bad, to the point that my mom took me to see the doctor. Turns out it was bronchitis. This was in the days when parents accompanied children into the examination room (do they still do that?), so when the doctor - a gray-haired, gruff mountain of a man - asked me, "Chris, do you smoke?" there was only one answer: "No, sir." Mind you, my mom wouldn't know any better, because she turned at least a pack a day into piles of ash, so I figured my fib would be successful. Unfortunately, Dr. Gruff turned to my mom - whom, I should mention, was also a big, scary woman, nearly six feet tall and prone to emotional outburst - and asked, "Linda, do you smoke in front of your children?" Being smarter than I, she knew the stink would put the lie to her denial, so she admitted to it.

What followed was Dr. Gruff berating my mother for what felt like hours, enumerating the ills of smoking in front of developing children, not to mention her own health, etc. She immediately quit smoking, then resumed but only smoked outside.

I had gotten my mom in trouble! That was it: I never smoked again.
A friend going through a difficult patch requested a funny story. Not being a joke-teller, I wrote up a tale from my childhood, and thought I'd share it here, and figured I oughta make this a regular feature. So, without further ado, here's the story of how I quit smoking:

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grades, one of my best friends stole a case (as in dozens of cartons) of cigarettes from the country club where he worked. Being generous - at least with ill-begotten goods - he supplied me with as many cigarettes as I could smoke. We rode our bicycles all around the town of Ortonville and our two-stroke dirt-bikes across the western Minnesota countryside for several weeks, cigs dangling rakishly from between our lips, chain-smoking everywhere we went to the tune of about five packs per day. Each. We thought we looked pretty damned good.

After participating as hard as I could in this attempt to be cool, I developed a cough. Amazing, I know. It got pretty bad, to the point that my mom took me to see the doctor. Turns out it was bronchitis. This was in the days when parents accompanied children into the examination room (do they still do that?), so when the doctor - a gray-haired, gruff mountain of a man - asked me, "Chris, do you smoke?" there was only one answer: "No, sir." Mind you, my mom wouldn't know any better, because she turned at least a pack a day into piles of ash, so I figured my fib would be successful. Unfortunately, Dr. Gruff turned to my mom - whom, I should mention, was also a big, scary woman, nearly six feet tall and prone to emotional outburst - and asked, "Linda, do you smoke in front of your children?" Being smarter than I, she knew the stink would put the lie to her denial, so she admitted to it.

What followed was Dr. Gruff berating my mother for what felt like hours, enumerating the ills of smoking in front of developing children, not to mention her own health, etc. She immediately quit smoking, then resumed but only smoked outside.

I had gotten my mom in trouble! That was it: I never smoked again.
.

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