Friday, August 12, 2016

Is This a Clue?!

I received a mysterious postcard this week:

No obvious hidden messages jumped out at me from the text, but DeeAnn wisely pointed out that several different video games are mentioned or described. That's pretty interesting.

Without knowing where this might lead, I'm not very motivated to spend time trying to solve it... but I'm sharing it here in case somebody else out there wants to take a crack at it.

If you do figure something out, please leave a comment below! (I also don't care about spoilers.)


Sunday, August 07, 2016

My MidAmeriCon II Schedule

If you're going to Worldcon later this month, here's where you can find me:

SFWA Autographing: Curtis Chen
Friday 16:00 - 16:50, SFWA Table (Kansas City Convention Center)
I'm volunteering to staff the SFWA Table, and I'll be there starting at 3:00pm along with Ed Lerner. Stop by and say hello!

Reboot! Changing Up Comic Characters
Friday 18:00 - 19:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)
"Spider Gwen, Amadeus Cho, Thor, Captain America. We've seen a lot of rebooted characters in the the last couple of years with dramatically altered social and cultural backgrounds. The panel discuss how these 'new' old characters have changed the Marvel Universe, for better and worse."
Mr. Robin Wayne Bailey (M), Nina Niskanen, David VonAllmen, Mr. Curtis Chen

...and I'll otherwise be wandering around, probably in search of barbecue and/or booze.

If you run into me at the con, ask for a "TEAM KANGAROO" ribbon to decorate your badge and show your support for the hapless hero of my debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo!

Last but not least, my friend, Clarion West classmate, and all-around awesome person Marlee Jane Ward is organizing a Karaoke Extravaganza on Thursday night. This is a private(ish) event, so if you're interested, message me on Facebook and I'll invite you!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Kanga-Roundup

Yesterday was the "book birthday" for my debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO, and I did a bunch of guest blog posts and interviews to coincide with its release! But first things first... is running a sweepstakes to give away five copies of the book! Enter before 12noon Eastern Time this Friday, June 24th (US/Canada only).

And now on to the blog posts! Some of these may be more interesting to writers and other publishing professionals, but I hope they give every interested party some more insight into what went into creating Kangaroo:

John Scalzi, one of my instructors at Viable Paradise XII, was kind enough to offer me a spot on The Big Idea.

Mary Robinette Kowal, erstwhile Portlandian and all-around outstanding human being, generously let me ramble on about My Favorite Bit.

Alex Shvartsman, editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series, hosted my breakdown of WK's opening chapter on The Hook.

Sally 'Qwill' Janin—who, coincidentally, founded The Qwillery on my birthday in 2008—interviewed me about a variety of writing-related topics for the Qwillery's 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

Stephen Geigen-Miller, a fellow writer in Toronto and friend of the fabulous Claire Humphrey, interviewed me about Breaking In as a writer.

BONUS: related to "My Favorite Bit" above, you can hear an excerpt from the forthcoming audio book!

Thanks to everyone for supporting WAYPOINT KANGAROO. Launch day was fantastic. Now let's see if we can push this rocket all the way to Mars... and beyond!


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My Preliminary Westercon 69 Schedule

Two blog posts in one week? Madness! (But it is technically a different month, so.)

I've received my draft schedule from the Westercon 69 programming department, and it's pretty light (as I requested):

Curtis Chen Reading
Fri Jul 1 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Curtis Chen reads from a selected work.
Curtis Chen

Choosing a Writing Workshop
Fri Jul 1 4:00pm - 5:00pm
From one-day workshops and moderated critiques to residential programs and even MFAs — what are the possibilities? How do you figure out what you need, and when? Panelists with experience as students, instructors, and program administrators review the pros and cons and answer questions.
Curtis Chen, David D. Levine, Karen Anderson (moderator), Manny Frishberg

Saturday 10am Kaffeeklatsch
Sat Jul 2 10:00am - 11:00am
Small group discussions with authors, artists, and other interesting personalities (referred to as "hosts") Sessions are limited to the host and a small group of attendees.
Anthony Pryor, Carol Berg, Curtis Chen, David D. Levine, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Sonia Lyris, Tod McCoy

Sun Jul 3 10:00am - 11:00am
Get your goodies signed!
Anthony Pryor, Curtis Chen, Emily Jiang

Of course, I'll be around all weekend. I'm always around.

Any updates to the above will be published in the official online schedule. If you're into Facebooking, feel free to add yourself to my rogue event listing for possible additional updates. And, of course, follow me on Twitter for my most up-to-the-minute blathering.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who Just Got Paid Once for Each Thumb He Has?

I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count:

For the record, that's a check from University Book Store for sales of Thursday's Children trade paperbacks, which Duane Wilkins was kind enough to stock at their table during this year's Rainforest Writers Village and Norwescon; and a check from SFWA for my "Special Synopsis Sauce" blog post, which editor extraordinaire Christie Yant encouraged me to write and submit.

And speaking of blogs, I know it's been several months since I posted here, and the business of writing (as shown above) is a big part of what's kept me away. I stopped doing my weekly "The I in Meat" posts because they were taking time away from more important, possibly income-generating things, and IMHO social media has supplanted blogging as online tools of choice for personal oversharing.

But just like Slack is no replacement for e-mail, there's still a place for blogging in the new internet landscape. I'm going to spend a little time re-figuring out how best to use this platform, especially since I'll be traveling a lot this summer and it might be nice to record some of those experiences.

Meanwhile, Happy Memorial Day Weekend, fellow Americans!


Saturday, February 06, 2016

I applied to Clarion West SIX TIMES

Applications for the Clarion West Summer Six-Week Writers Workshop in Seattle are now open. If you apply before February 10th, the fee is only $30; it goes up to $50 after that date. The last day to apply is March 1st. This year's instructors are Paul Park, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Bear, N. K. Jemisin, Sheila Williams, and Geoff Ryman.

As the title of this post says, I applied to CW six times (every year starting in 2008, only skipping 2012 because of WarTron) before I attended the workshop in 2014. My classmate Shannon Fay recently posted her CW personal essay—requested as part of the application; they want a "description of your background and your reasons for attending the workshop"—and I remember having the same experience she describes, of wondering what it was I should say about myself and how much weight the essay (vs. the writing sample) would carry with the decision-makers who selected each year's students.

So here's my own CW2014 personal essay, which was used "to introduce [me] to the workshop’s instructors" after my acceptance. Did the people reviewing the initial applications even read it? I don't know. On some level, I was really writing this essay for myself, to codify my own thinking about where I was with my fiction writing and what I wanted to work on next.

NOTE: hyperlinks below were not included in the original document, but have been added here for reference.

by Curtis C. Chen

Hello again! Here's what I've been up to (writing-wise) since my last Clarion West application in 2013:

I started querying my science fiction spy novel, WAYPOINT KANGAROO (the writing sample attached to this application), and the first place to which I sent it was literary agent Janet Reid's "Query Shark" blog. I'd never written a query letter before, and I figured it would be good to get some impartial feedback. Of course, there was no guarantee she'd even look at my e-mail, but it was a good way to set an external deadline--and those really help me get things done. (More on that later.)

So imagine my surprise when Janet Reid wrote back three days later to tell me she was posting my query on the blog. Not only that, but she wanted to read the novel! Now I really had a deadline to meet.

I cranked through the rewrites-in-progress, finished them in less than a week, and sent Janet Reid the full manuscript. Two months later, she replied--saying "it's not ready yet" but offering very detailed advice on how I might improve it. She also said she'd be glad to take a look at the next revision.

"Chuffed" doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I've done a lot more work on KANGAROO since then, and plan to get a new draft back to Janet Reid before the end of March--which would [be] one year since the Query Shark post. Deadlines are good.

Speaking of deadlines, I also wrapped up my "512 Words or Fewer" blog project last year. In October of 2008, I set myself the goal of posting an original piece of flash fiction every Friday. I wanted to force myself to write more and different stories, and this compact format seemed like the perfect way to experiment and actually finish things.

Why 512 words? Mainly because I used to be a professional software engineer, and thus have an affinity for powers of two. (2^9 = 512.) It also seemed like a manageable amount to produce on a weekly basis. In fact, that was one of the first things I learned: my first draft of any scene tends to come out around 1,000 words. Cutting that by half can be painful, but it was an invaluable exercise in critical thinking--I had to decide which words were absolutely essential, and which darlings I could murder. Learning to see the forest for the trees was one of the most important things I learned from the 512s, and it's something I've been able to apply to all my writing.

I concluded the 512s in August, 2013, after 256 consecutive weeks. Not all of the stories were great, but the process of creating them has made me a better writer. I'm aware of how much more clarity I now have when thinking about capital-S Story, even if it's simply heckling a sloppy plot contrivance on Downton Abbey. (Seriously, eight months later, he's still got the damn ticket? C'mon, guys.)

To commemorate the 512 Words project, my wife helped me select 117 of the most interesting stories to include in a collection which we published on January 31st of this year. That process taught me a lot about what it takes to design and produce both a printed paperback and an electronic version. The 512 book (which we titled THURSDAY'S CHILDREN, ha ha) was also a fun project, but I'm not sure I'd want to self-publish again--I would much rather have help navigating the business side of publishing.

In fact, I recently had a very good publishing experience with a novelette I sold to Leading Edge. They're a BYU publication, and as such have guidelines about explicit language and sexual content--which required me to revise my story featuring foulmouthed police detectives and cloned prostitutes. They were willing to copy-edit the swear words themselves, but also wanted me to consider rewriting one of the final scenes.

So I cleaned up the language, rewrote the scene in question, and did some minor touchups here and there--but otherwise was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the piece. (Good job, past me!) And the whole process, from contract to rewrites to final copyedits, was about all of us pulling for the same goal: getting the story in shape and into print.

I want to write fiction people want to read. That means developing my skill as a writer, and also understanding markets, editors, and audiences. I believe Clarion West will help me with all of those things.

Thanks for reading!

I don't know what factors, apart from me improving as a writer between 2008 and 2014, led to my finally getting into CW. To be honest, when I was working on this essay, I thought of it like Red's final parole board hearing in Shawshank Redemption: it was more important to speak honestly than to try to game the application process. Because, in the end, all you have is your own integrity.

And it doesn't matter how many times you fail, as long as you always fail better. Getting a result means you're making the attempt. You can't succeed if you don't try.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Will Be at Some Conventions This Year

(Wow, has it really been a whole month since my last blog post here? I'm a terrible person.)

If you're a SF/F convention-goer, here are some 2016 events I'm definitely attending and which I would recommend to any fan:

A few others are undecided, but watch my author Twitter stream for announcements.

Plus my friend Claire Humphrey and I are working on a mini-book tour for our debut novels this June (Spells of Blood and Kin and Waypoint Kangaroo, respectively). More details on that as we figure it out.

I'm also like 90% sure I'm going to the Star Trek 50th anniversary thing in Las Vegas this August. Don't even act surprised.