Gearing Up for Keycon

I can usually only manage one con a year, and last year I hit When Words Collide in Calgary, but this year I’m broke, so hometown con again this year.

The good news is I’ve been emailing back and forth with the programming committee, pushing for more serious writing related programming. There was some talk of not wanting to get too technical and have the panels end up not being of interest to non-writers.  I pointed out that the two need not be mutually exclusive, one can have the fluff panels and fan panels for non writers, and the nitty gritty technical panels for the writers. I also mentioned that there have been complaints about there not being enough serious writing panels in previous years, as well as the amount of positive feedback programming committees have received in years when they have had a good amount of serious writing panels. They were easily convinced and literary paneling this year is looking fantastic.

So, the panels I will be on:

Religion and SF & F with Lindsay Kitson, Sherry Peters and Daria Patrie: From Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality to David Webber’s Honor Harrington Series, from Michael Carpenter in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files to Bobby Dollar in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, and many more novels, religion has played a key part in SF&F literature. What part does religion have in the world building process? How has religion been used as a central theme or as an allegory in SF&F? How are religions portrayed? Should writers and readers alike be concerned about cultural appropriation when some religions are used in a book?

Alternative Aviation in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn: From Autogyros to Zeppelins: a catalogue of unusual aircraft past, present and future. A look at the strengths and weaknesses of each, plus how much technology is needed to build them, and how well they fit into different sub-genres of SF. Examples from noteworthy fiction, and how they played a role in plot or worldbuilding. Do you need air transportation in the age of steam, or on an alien world? Alternative aviation may hold the answers you’re looking for. Remember: getting there is half the fun! (I’m not so much on this panel, as manning the projector and heckling.)

How to Edit Your Own Work, and Why You Need an Editor with Lindsay Kitson, J. Boone Dryden, Diane Walton and Daria Patrie: The trick to writing is re-writing. Our panelists will share a few tips on editing your own work, and will go over what an editor will do with your work. Also, is the editor always right? What happens if you disagree with your editor?

Point of View with Gerald Brandt, Melinda Friesen, Lindsay Kitson, and Daria Patrie: What writing point of view is most often found in SF&F literature and why? How does point of view change the narrative or style of the story? Is it more difficult to write a certain point of view?

Women in Speculative Fiction with Kelley Armstrong, Tamsen McDonough, Lindsay Kitson, and Van Kunder: Join our panelists as they explore how female characters have been portrayed in books and on film in the past and present, and how women have been involved in their respective fields over time. Is Speculative Fiction on the leading edge of equality? Or is there still a long way to go?

Critique Group Survival with Lindsay Kitson and Daria Patrie: So you’re ready to share what you’ve written with others and get feedback on it. How do you find a critique group? How do you know if you’ve got a good one? How do critiquing meetings go, and how to you contribute effectively? And when is it time to move on to a different group? Bonus content: How to start your own critique group!

Aviation and Believable Airships and Aircraft in Science Fiction with Timothy Gwyn and Lindsay Kitson:. An interactive session with two pilots who are also writers. Lindsay Kitson and Timothy Gwyn tackle the credible and incredible in aviation fact and fiction. Learn how getting aviation right can enhance your story. Some pointers on how to keep it real with aircraft and airship scenes that actually work. (This one’s going to be fun, and there will be at least one signed pre-release copy of Tim’s book, Avians, as a prize for whoever gets the most questions right!)

The timetable is tentative and incomplete so far, but this is the earliest I recall them ever  having it available before the con, so that bodes well for how organized they are this year. What they have so far can be viewed here. Looking over it, I can see some other panels already that I’d like to hit.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Avians – Cover Reveal

You might recall I mentioned one of the members of my critique group was getting published, and I promised to post more when there were further developments. Well it’s getting closer to his publication date, and he’s got a cover reveal post on his blog right here. 

I read this in it’s infancy a few years ago, and while it needed work at that point – every novel does at that stage – I whipped through it as fast as I used to read authors like Lloyd Alexander and Monica Hughes. Actually, I think Monica Hughes would be the author I’d compare him to – YA, but with serious themes and without the preoccupation with romance that a lot of YA fiction with female focal point characters seems to feature these days.

And I can’t say 100% for sure that I didn’t read it that fast because it revolved around aviation, but that can’t have been the only factor, because I’ve picked up some other books revolving around aviation, and not devoured them that quickly. The characters and world are engaging and imaginative, the plot had a solid foundation, and meaningful themes. It pulled me in, even at the stage I saw it, and I look forward to seeing it again in it’s polished form.

If you like aviation and YA books, or if you have daughters you’d like to inspire with a book that’s about young girls having adventures and not obsessing over boys, check it out!

Also, Timothy will be at Keycon this coming May, as will I and my close friend Daria Patrie, who is a Master in Creative Writing, so come see our panels. I’ve been in touch with the programming committee and it sounds like the writing panels will be exceptional this year.

Taking The Plunge – New Job

My call centre job is one that pays decently well, so I’ve known for a long time that whenever I ended up getting a job in the aviation industry, it was going to be a pay cut, and a fairly massive one. Which is scary, with a lot of debt, but I’m very grateful that my Dad is in a position to help me out so I’m not afraid my husband and I will end up on the street or anything while I transition to a completely new industry.

So it’s scary, leaving my decent wage job for something minimum wage, and I wanted to wait until I’d passed all my tests before starting to search. Which I’ve done now.

Most pilots don’t get their first job in the industry flying. Usually they start by getting their foot in the door with a company by taking a job on the ground, typically either working the ramp, loading cargo, fueling planes, etc, or dispatching.

Apparently I interview well. Most of the time, if I an get an interview, I get the job. I was taught basic manners and stuff and that goes over well.

I put out a bunch of resume’s and after all of a week of searching, a friend passed my resume on to management at a local Medevac company, and they called me in for an interview for a position dispatching.

Now, at least in this setting, the dispatcher is kind of the central nervous system of the company, responsible for knowing where all the planes are at a given time, receiving estimated arrival times and passing them on to parties who need them, relaying details of trips to pilots and medics to send them on their way to pick up patients. A lot of responsibility for an entry level position.

I remember years ago, I was working back at EDS, another call centre, and a call came out for applications for a position within the project called “Incident Problem Management”. My manager suggested I apply.

I hadn’t even considered it. It didn’t sound like anything I was qualified to do, though I really didn’t have any clue what was involved. I was just a phone monkey – in no way whatsoever, did I think I had a chance at getting that position; for sure there was someone more qualified than me.

But they interviewed me and gave me the position. Now, in my head, they sat down in a room and went, “You know what? I think we should take a shot on Lindsay – give her a chance, what do you think?”

My friends, who have worked with me in the past told me the conversation likely went more like “Lindsay’s demonstrated she’s competent and doesn’t slack off, we want her.”

My duties turned out to be monitoring ticket queues and acting on patterns I saw that could indicate a major problem, and facilitating communication between departments in order resolve issues in the company’s IT environment as they arose.

I did do well, and when the company lost the project to a lower bidder and the position disappeared, I soon got a supervisor position in another project within the company based on my performance in the IPM position.

Fast forward to now, interviewing for the dispatcher position, which is a job with huge responsibility, despite being an entry level position. But I listened to the description of the job and realized, I can totally do this. In fact, I’m literally their ideal candidate, and when I described by previous job experience, I got the sense the manager interviewing me realized that too.

So I was offered the job on the spot, and now I’m dispatching for Sky North.

Writing About Aeroplanes: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I started writing stories about pilots before becoming an actual pilot myself, which is kind of an interesting contrast to Timothy Gwyn, who started writing after establishing a career in aviation. I imagine he didn’t make a lot of the silly mistakes I did.

Part of the problem is when you start researching planes and flying, there’s lots of talk about design, and neat things like, I learned early on how the radial engines gave way in design to the sleeker in-line positioning of the pistons to reduce drag, and I’d learned how many crew were needed in a Lancaster Bomber and what their positions were from when the Lanc visited Winnipeg last. But when it came to the basics, I had learned about the Bernoulli principle, and I understood the control surfaces and how they worked, that the rudder was controlled by pedals, while the elevator and ailerons were connected to the stick or control column.

That was…it.

So I go off on my merry way writing my novel, and then I bring it to a critique group where one member had got his private pilot’s licence many years before, and he pointed out some of my incorrect assumptions about how planes work.*

Oh. Well that is very helpful. It was one of those things, I just would never have thought to ask.

I tried to do more research, but I kept finding that the basics were hard to find resources on. The information online about aviation tends to be geared towards people who already know how to fly a plane and the info presented only builds on that. I could have looked up the answers to specific questions, but I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask.

Fast forward to where I had decided I was seriously going to make a go of becoming a commercial pilot and I’m out at St. Andrews for my first ever flight, and we’re doing the walk-around, and my instructor is pointing out all the plane parts. I’m like, I can tell you all the things I know about airplanes – ok, propeller, fuselage, rudder, elevator, ailerons. That’s it. Oh, wheels! Yep, those are wheels.

Good job, she says, except those aren’t the ailerons, actually, those are the flaps.

The what? In all my reading about aeroplanes, this term had not come up. Or if it had, it wasn’t explained, and I just assumed it was some kind of auxiliary fancy thing that the big planes had. I’d been on jets, you know when you look out the windows at the wings and there’s these little squares that lift up on different parts of the wing?**

I had always intended to hunt down a pilot to help me edit my story, and it turned out I didn’t actually do that badly – fixing my mistakes didn’t break my novel’s plot, it was just touch-ups here and there.

But as a pilot now, the amount of knowledge I have to pour into a novel about pilots affects the type of stories I’m telling now. It’s not just a mode of transportation, or a mount to ride into combat anymore – they’re complex and I have a way more detailed understanding of how I can use these things to almost, but not quite kill my characters.

That and an understanding of the diversity of aircraft and features available, and enough knowledge to not put a feature on an aircraft that’s unrealistic. I mean, a Cessna 150 is not going to have autopilot installed. It is possible to have a plane without flaps, but I know enough not to make it a large one, and know what that means for the plane. I know the differences in ground handling between tricycle and conventional landing gear now and can throw that into a story, or simply portray it accurately. I know enough to describe accurately the characteristics of a good versus a bad landing.

I know what’s dangerous, and what seems dangerous but isn’t actually a big deal. Like, you see videos of WWII planes being started by hand-swinging the prop so often you’d think that wasn’t big deal, but that’s one of those things that kills people or takes limbs if you aren’t careful. Whereas, doing spins was something so easy to do and recover from, I was doing it in my first week of flying, and doing it solo in my first hundred hours with my instructor’s blessing, but it’s something that people think must be horribly dangerous.

There’s just so much to know about aviation, and I’m still a rookie low-hours pilot looking for my first job.

So how do you get that base level of knowledge if you want to write about pilots without becoming a pilot yourself. Well, there will be snobs who will say, just go get your private license, but not everyone has that kind of money kicking around.

One great way would be to take a ground school course. Most schools offer it in a classroom setting, but there are online versions as well – my school’s online ground school is Transport Canada approved. There are textbooks available too – the one my school uses is called “From The Ground Up”. It starts assuming no knowledge of aviation. There are others, and this one is specific for Canada, though that’s mainly only relevant for the air law side of things.

The other thing you can do that’s not horrifically expensive is most schools offer a “Discovery Flight”, which is just an introductory flight that goes over the basics, they take you up in the aeroplane and let you fly it, show you some of the basic maneuvers. There’s some real danger in going this route though – huge risk you might realize you love it and need to get your licence. Take precautions.***

On that note, I can confirm my attendance at Keycon this year. Timothey Gwyn will be there too, and I hope to do at least one panel covering a lot of these sort of topics for writers who might be interested in writing about aviation. Hope to see you there!

 

*Apparently, planes taxiing are propelled by their propellers, same as in the air – there’s no power transfer to the wheels to move them on the ground. Who knew.
**Ladies and gentlemen – those are spoilers. The flaps, incidentally, are the things that extend and curl downward in preparation for landing.
***Just kidding, do it, it’s amazing!

Multi-Instrument

Last year was a rough year. MIFR has taken a lot longer than I planned on it taking, and on the one hand I tend to be the first one to blame myself, but in truth, there’s been a lot of shit thrown in my way this year.

I’d been waiting for call volumes to go down and scheduling to be more flexible forever. At the beginning of the year I finally decided that I couldn’t keep waiting and hoping things at work would get better – I had to pick up flight training again, or I would never get out of my current job.

So I called up Harv’s Air and started sim training about once or twice a week. It was coming along, though my work schedule was  unrelenting, but my spirits were up because I was finally back to making progress.

And then I pulled into the parking lot at Harv’s and looked at my phone before I went in, and got the message that my Grandma was dying. I rushed back home to be there when she died. Her death hit me hard – it wasn’t like most people losing a grandparent – this Grandma was a parent to me.

I got all of three days bereavement leave off work and went straight back into sim training, and right away after, started my multi rating. We had weather, and we had plane maintenance, and I was exhausted with my schedule at work, and I was ready to pull back and take a break. I was far enough into my multi rating though that my instructor said it was a bad time to take a break. I made it through my multi flight test.

So next was some brushing up on IFR, and then back in the plane for multi-engine instrument training. There was more weather. Planes went down for maintenance. But I had vacation coming up, and that was when I was planning on doing the last big push to finish up.

My vacation came – Somewhere in there I wrote the instrument rating written test and passed it. But I was running out of time. I asked my work for more time off. Unpaid now. I got it, two weeks, in fact.

Then the first of the two multi-engine aircraft the school trains with went down for maintenance, not just for a fifty hour inspection – something had to be done with the engines that involved them being sent away for maintenance. Two months of downtime. Which meant all the students booking on the second plane. The second one at one point was also down for a week for other maintenance issues.

And we needed to get the IFR cross country trip done. lol…

Anyway, between my work schedule, weather, and plane maintenance, losing my Grandmother, among the biggest things but among a multitude of other stressors, I’ve been feeling very much like something just doesn’t want me to succeed. Like the end of the movie “The Labyrinth”, where David Bowie starts frantically sending everything he can to stop Sarah from making it the last little way to the castle.

Losing my Grandma affected me is ways I didn’t expect. But I was just less emotionally resilient than I normally am, and it made it harder to fight the inner voices one gets from having been a past victim of abuse. The fact that my work schedule isolated me from being able to spend time with the people I draw emotional support from made it worse.

But it’s not my instructor’s responsibility to be my therapist, and I did my best to not make excuses. I worked my way past it the only way I know how – stubbornly ploughing through head first.

I remember before I ever hopped into a plane to learn to fly, thinking about whether or not I was ready to do this. Because I was used to the way my life was – used to just never getting anything I want unless I’m ready to give it everything I’ve got and just refuse to give up.

I don’t know if it’s God, or the fates, or whatever, who’ve decided they don’t think I’ve been through enough, tried hard enough, worked hard enough, but I have something to say to them: I’m not the wilting teenager I once was that had so little confidence she would never have considered embarking on this journey in the first place. I look back on my teen age years and think, hell, I made it though that, I’ll make it through this too. If you want to break me, you’ll have to do better than this.

Multi-Engine Instrument test is done and passed.

New Year’s Post 2016

Well, this has been a year of success, and I have a feeling next year will only get better.

That’s what I wrote in last New Year’s post. Then, 2016 happened.

You know what I’m talkin’ about. It started with celebrities dying, then it seemed like every one of my friends was losing a loved one, and by February, I was like, dude, my Grandma’s in the hospital and her health’s not great, I don’t like how this year is going. And it went exactly where it looked like it was going.

Well, goal have been hit and miss this year, so might as well get on with it the round-up:

-Not die. I’m re-phrasing this from previous years – the original was “survive another year” followed by “Screw survival, I want to LIVE.” I’m living now, so I’ll be happy with keeping myself safe in the process! – Well, I’m good on this one. Can’t say the same for everyone this year.

-Get my Multi-engine rating. – Made it through this one.

Get my IFR rating. – Almost there, but not quite.

Writing wise, finish a revision of Skybound. I think that’s reasonable. – Still focussed on flying, but actually got some decent work done on this. Ultimately, not a full revision, but I’m pleased with how it’s going.

Short stories:write one. Any one. I do about one a year. It’s fine. – I wrote one. Actually, maybe two, can’t remember when I wrote the short one, but Saturday’s Child was a good long one and a solid story, I’m very pleased with it.

Reading: I think this year, if anything, the goal should be to read more books period. Gonna put The Name Of The Wind on that list again though, along with my new favourite author’s newest book, Illuminae, and Chad Ginther’s trilogy finale, Too Far Gone, and if I can make it to that one, Sherry’s sequel, Mabel, the Mafioso Dwarf. Also, at least one female author and at least one POC author. – I did none of these….no wait, I read a female author – finished Elizabeth Wein’s Black Dove, White Raven. Also read Gerald Brandt’s The Courier, and looking forward to the sequel.

So – the multi-IFR is the biggest thing at this point, and there have been so many obstacles thrown at me this year, it’s frustrating that it’s taking me this long, but my Grandma’s death hit me hard. I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, and it affected me in ways I didn’t expect. That and the long breaks between lessons due to weather and maintenance and my work schedule have made things even harder. And miscellaneous things I won’t even bother to list.

But I don’t know any other way to deal with things besides plowing through head first. So without further ado, my goals for 2017:

– Not die Same as always.

– Remain happily married. Realized I missed that one last year, and husband is miffed he didn’t make the list. Maybe to be more specific, I’ll throw in see a movie or go out for dinner once a month, since that tends to be our date night thing. Husband and I are great together – have to be grateful for that. Can’t imagine my life without him.

– Finish my Multi-IFR.

– Quit my job. It’s like a ball and chain, it’s exhausting, and while I like my co-workers for the most part, and they’ve been the one redeeming element aside from getting paid, it’s a terrible environment for someone like me to work. It burns me out, and it’s stopping me from succeeding with flying. While I’d originally planned to wait until I’d finished my MIFR to quit, I might have to just take the plunge. I won’t find another job that pays as much, but my first flying job was pretty much guaranteed to not pay as much as my current job, so while it’s scary, it’s inevitable, and I think it’s time.

– Editing Skybound: make significant progress. I’m on a roll with this one, I’m enjoying the story and world, and really getting into the characters,  so this one has been good. Also, having my regular critique group meeting monthly gets me focused on having a scene ready to present each month, so I’m making steady, if small, progress without it being an overwhelming thing that I need to set aside to focus on flying.

– Short stories: write one more. Same as last year. Usually one just randomly comes to me and I’m like, omg, I have a story to write.

– Reading: I haven’t had as much time to read lately, so I’m just going to simplify this one to reading more. I may have only read like two or three books last year, so I’m going to make a reasonable goal of reading five novels. Five seems like a good number.

– I feel like there should be something else, something nebulous, and I stopped to think about it, and what I want to put down is I want to do something to honour my Grandmother’s memory. I want to be like her and practice the things she taught me, from growing plants and cooking, to being kind and loving my family. I’m going to have family over for dinner and board games sometimes. I had my brother and my dad over for Christmas eve for a quiet evening, just the four of us, and it was really nice. We’ll do that more.

2016 was a shit year, but I’m a stubborn bitch, so 2017 better be ready to bring it.

Multi-IFR Cross Country

Quick update.

They do their best to pair up students for the IFR cross country so that one student can fly the leg outbound and the other inbound, saving money for each student, since the trip needs to be a certain distance one direction.

But the weather was turning colder, and this aircraft doesn’t have de-icing or anti-icing equipment.

We booked the flight, and planned to be able to go either east or west, whichever direction the weather was better.

The date came, and there was icing conditions in both directions.

We booked it a second time, and same deal.

We booked it a third time. Third time’s the charm right? Nope. Plane grounded for maintenance.

We booked it a fourth time. I was up early, glanced at the TAF, looked good – vis on the Winnipeg METAR looked fine, plus six miles. I headed out to the airport.

I got halfway down Main, before I could see about three street lights ahead of me and the fourth was hidden in the fog.

I got to St. Andrews, and the visibility out there was 1/4 mile. To legally be allowed to take off, we needed 1/2 mile. I texted my laments to my fellow writer/pilot in Kenora, Tim, and he teased me about being absolved of any novice ideas of “all-weather flying”. We waited. We were watching the old tower, and every few minutes it looked like the fog was dissipating, but the next minute, the old tower on the next ramp would be nearly hidden by the fog. We waited it out three hours, until my cross country student partner had other commitments.

We had an unseasonably warm late October and early November, but one of the two Seminoles Harv’s flys was down two months for maintenance, and the one still flying was over booked. The time it was available – night.

Well, extra multi-engine-instrument-cross-country hours never hurt a pilot. We booked it a fifth time.

I figured we’d only be on the ground a few minutes, but I messaged Tim because I’d feel weird being in Kenora and not letting him know. And despite reassuring him that we’d probably not be on the ground long enough to do much more than wave, and as a pilot I knew he’d understand, he still cared enough to pretty much insist on meeting us at the airport.

My partner flew the inbound leg while I nibbled on graham crackers in the back. Most of my IFR flying has been through controlled airspace, so it was kind of different to go through the motions of passing in and out of controlled airspace. Class E airspace is also a bit of a quirky mashup of controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

For the Americans following me, it’s my understanding that there’s not a lot of airspace out there that’s not covered by radar. I’ve heard stories from Canadian pilots flying in the USA, tell me they were told by flight following “There’s gonna be no radar service for a few miles in front of you, are you okay with that?” And the Canadian pilot being confused as to what the big deal was.

My understanding is that in most countries, there’s almost no such thing as IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace. Canada is a really big country, and there’s a lot of uncontrolled airspace. IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace is a fact of life here.

Anyway, we got on the ground and Tim met us wearing a headlamp and a reflective vest, and I seriously almost kinda felt like I had a ground crew. It was cool. I could get used to this.

Anyway, we stayed on the ground long enough for a pit stop, and I learned Tim had drafts of the cover art for his upcoming novel, which is super exciting, and I can’t wait to be posting more about the launch!

Back to Winnipeg though. Pro-tip – there’s a tower like, right in the path of  the eastbound runway. Keep your climb going and stay on course.

The approach in Winnipeg and the second in St. Andrews was familiar, which is good because I was tired at that point.

Anyway, it’s done, and I’m almost finished. Stay with me.