Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Holmes + Dracula = ???

My VPXII classmate Christian Klaver has a short story, "The Adventure of the Solitary Grave: From the Supernatural Case Files of Sherlock Holmes," in the new Anthology of Dark Wisdom from Elder Signs Press. Per Christian, it's "a Sherlock Holmes & Dracula pastiche," and really, how can you go wrong with that? (Unless, perhaps, it's a musical.)


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Observation

John Scalzi is the only person I know who regularly and unironically uses words like "ginchy" and "cromulent" in casual conversation.

That is all.


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Sunday, April 05, 2009

How'm I Doing?

Short answer: Pretty well.

Long answer:

Remember all those commitments I made at the beginning of the year? I haven't managed to meet all of them, but I'm making the effort and accomplishing a decent majority of everything I set out to do. Hooray! Detailed breakdown follows.

post a new 512 Words or Fewer story (text and audio) every Friday

I've met this 100% and am very happy about it. I only came close to missing my deadline once, and I was even ahead of schedule last week. You can expect to see more trunk stories and novel excerpts if I ever get too busy or lazy again.

finish "Freefall: No Fate" - post a new chapter every month

I finished two chapters in three months, so I'll call this one 67%.

1 NEW short story submission to pro/semi-pro markets every month

This one, I need to improve. I finished one short in January and two in February, but the latter pair were for my Clarion application, which was rejected, and they're now being critiqued by my VPXII peeps prior to another rewrite pass. I need to write at least one new story this month.

critique 1 VPXII classmate's story per month

I slacked off on this for a long time and then critiqued three in March, so on average I'm doing okay.

finish 2nd draft of Waypoint Kangaroo by end of March

Well, that didn't happen. I'm still working on it, but at this point I'm leaning toward starting the agent query process and sharpening up the first three chapters just so I can get the ball rolling before mid-year.

do Script Frenzy in April

In progress!

upload all home videos to YouTube

Still doing this most Fridays. I'm prioritizing longer videos so I can get them uploaded before Google Video turns that off, and I got sidetracked in February with editing the GC Summit stuff.

It turns out that most of my old VHS tapes are marching band performances from high school. Here we are in the 1992 Rose Parade (scrub to 1:36 for my close-up, Mom):


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflections on teh RaceFail

My somewhat entirely selfish observation about the whole "RaceFail '09" debacle is this:

I'm really glad I attended Viable Paradise last year, because this year's class experience is sure to be tainted--if not completely eclipsed--by this stupid thing. (Lucky XIII, indeed.)

Aside: I didn't even know about any of this until I caught up with my VPXII classmate Alberto's LiveJournal. Yes, I am a grumpy old man.

John Scalzi called it "discussion of [x]," and I agree. This particular thread has gone way, way off the rails and off-topic. A few cooler heads, including Scalzi and friends, have attempted to wrestle the conversation back to the subject of race, but the damage has been done, and any good that comes out of it at this point has come at an enormous and unnecessary cost.

This is all I have to say about [x]:

Issues of race (and, by extension, racism) are deeply personal, for people of any heritage. When you choose to make those issues public, well, thank you for sharing, but please be aware of what you're getting into.

You can't write and perform The Vagina Monologues without eventually becoming an activist. You can't write The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian without tapping into centuries of American history.

That's political. And politics is all about power and diplomacy. Unfortunately, on the Internet, both those dimensions are collapsed into a single channel--text--and sometimes, words alone aren't enough. You can't end a war with an aphorism.

And now for something completely different relevant:


But seriously, folks:


You are not the work. This is something pro writers say, a lot, when advising baby writers. It means that you have to learn to accept criticism of your work by understanding that "this story sucks" is a fundamentally different statement than "you suck."

The line is much finer when it comes to blogs and comments thereupon. What you say is not who you are, but it is all that people see here. Your words are your actions in this space, and actions have consequences.

(My final remark below is not directed toward any particular person. I offer it as a general guideline for all.)

On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog, but what other conclusion should they draw if all you do is bark?


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Friday, January 09, 2009

My 2009 Commitments

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. It's a terminology issue--I don't make resolutions. I'm not Congress, or the United Nations.

I also don't set goals, because that word has been poisoned by years of working in Dilbertville. (I reserve the right to punch, in either nose or neck, the next person who invites me to discuss "stretch goals" or "sandbagging.")

No, I make commitments. Besides being the name of a great movie, the word implies something personal. It's most often used in reference to relationships; e.g., a man's fear of same cited as why he ain't popped the question yet. When you commit to something, you give your word, you make a promise, you take an oath. And that's not just a piece of paper--that is a matter of honor.

So you can hold me to the commitments below. If I fail to meet any of them, it won't be for lack of trying.
  • post a new 512 Words or Fewer story (text and audio) every Friday
  • finish "Freefall: No Fate"
    • post a new chapter every month until finished (ETC: May 2009)
  • get 2 short stories published in pro/semi-pro markets
    • 1 NEW submission every month! (resubmit rejected stories continuously)
  • critique 1 VPXII classmate's story per month
  • send out 2 novel manuscripts (past query stage)
    • finish 2nd draft of Waypoint Kangaroo by end of March, start querying
    • finish 2nd draft of EndGame by end of June, start querying
    • finish 1st draft of Spaceship Castle by end of September
  • do Script Frenzy in April (dot-com heist caper)
  • upload all home videos to YouTube/Google Video by end of year
For you bean counters, this means I'm committing to finishing six pieces of short fiction and one-third of a novel draft per month. That's approximately 45,000 words a month, or 1,500 words a day. I suppose I should jump on the bandwagon and put a word-count widget on my LiveJournal...


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Saturday, November 29, 2008

67,118 words

Finished my NaNoWriMo 2008 novel tonight. I had been shooting for 75,000 words, but I reached a natural and satisfying endpoint for the story I was telling at just over 67,000.

I considered going back and inserting a few chapters from another character's point of view, to beef up the word count, but I'm not sure that's what I want. There are already two or three other big things I'll have to fix in the second draft, so I want to mull over all the changes before mounting a single, combined assault.

Meanwhile, I've plenty of other things to do. I'm on the hook for rewriting and submitting my "American Gothic" story from Viable Paradise tomorrow. After that, I need to start organizing my notes for the 512 Words flash fiction pipeline.

I've got a lot of ideas and fragments scattered throughout Google Docs and my PalmPilot notes. There's no shortage of ideas in the world, but I've already outlined some of these premises, and it'll be good practice in finishing what I start. Even if it is a decade later for some of them.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

CKL+D Go To OryCon

OryCon 30 starts tomorrow!

You can view our tentative schedule on Google Spreadsheets. We also hope to meet up with our friends Ken & Cera and Kevin & Steph at some point during the weekend. And find a couple of hours somewhere to help out behind the scenes.



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where in the World?

Propagating my friend Marko's travel meme...

Five really interesting/beautiful foreign places I’ve visited:
  • British Columbia
  • Niagara Falls
  • Taiwan
  • Mexicali
  • Hawaii (that's a "foreign place," right, Cokie Roberts?)
Five countries that are high up on my List of Places I Want To See:
  • Italy
  • China
  • Israel
  • England
  • Australia
If I could speak one more language fluently, I’d like to be able to speak:
  • Spanish
If I had to trade my citizenship for another one, I’d most likely move to:
  • Canada



Thursday, October 09, 2008

Closing the Tabs

Installed a new Firefox extension today (RetailMeNot, if you must know), so it's time for a restart. And I might as well clean up these tabs while I'm at it:

Stanford Magazine and the Interstitial Arts Foundation are both looking for short stories to publish--up to 2,500 words by November 5th and 4,000-10,000 words by December 2nd, respectively. I probably have a better shot at the latter, which is likely to more receptive to genre (rather than "literary") fiction.

I really shouldn't be spending more money right now, but these Gamestop coupons are awfully tempting.

A fellow Viable Paradise graduate's (not my class, but still my tribe) short story "Chrono-Girl Vs. Kid Vampire" has been published online.

The latest issue of ACM Queue is online. Probably my last, since I didn't renew my membership for next year.

GrooveLily has posted "The Flash Point," another demo track from their new show Long Story Short.

Courtesy of Lifehacker, links to two things that sound cool but I don't really need: Windows registry hacking and a utility that clears all the "Recently Used" lists in Windows.

Viable Paradise linkage: Jim McDonald's recommended Emergency Kits and Elizabeth Bear et al.'s seriously serious Criminal Minds fanfic, Shadow Unit.

We need some kind of toy hammock to keep things from falling behind the corner bookshelf in the living room.

More things I really don't need: USBCell rechargeable AA batteries, a $50 Stargate mirror, and a $40 print of Serenity Valley.

I don't remember why I was looking at the Superstruct Game.

Another VP alum got her poem published online at Expanded Horizons.

A great collection of photos from VPXII--thanks, Alberto!

Charity art project to fight malaria, co-sponsored by open-source screenwriting software Celtx.

Writing links from VPXII.

Researching uses for our ancient WiFi access point: Avaya/Lucent/Orinoco RG-1000 Residential Gateway notes and WDS page from Wikipedia.

More from VPXII: Preditors and Editors™ and First Lines from Famous Books.

Read Free Star Trek Comics Online!

Last but not least, Writer's Digest reveals 28 Agents Who Want Your Work. But that list was published in August, so they're probably swamped with queries at this point.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Something Scalzi said at Viable Paradise (paraphrased): "Your first sentence buys you the first paragraph. Your first paragraph buys you the first page. Your first page buys you the first chapter. Your first chapter buys the next one."

In that spirit, here's a collection of first lines from college application essays--specifically, Stanford's class of 2012. Some of these could be (and some probably are) hooks for really interesting stories. My personal favorite is "I have old hands."


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Monday, September 29, 2008

Back in the World

I'm home after an exhausting and exhilarating week at Viable Paradise XII. I spent all day Saturday traveling, was pretty much useless on Sunday, and only regained the mental capacity to make actual decisions late this afternoon. (Speaking of which, my wife is a saint for putting up with me.)

Today, we stopped at the Portland Ikea (again) to pick up a dresser for our bedroom closet. We also ordered a bed for our office/guest room, to be delivered tomorrow, and got me a Vancouver library card. The unpacking goes slowly but surely.

After spending an entire week writing, talking about writing, thinking about writing, and hearing about writing, it's a little disorienting to be back in a place where other things seem more important and immediate. But at least I know I'm not alone. I met a lot of amazing people last week, and I hope to keep in touch with them for many years to come.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scalzi, Soused




Sunday, September 21, 2008

Viable Paradise XII Daily Schedule

If you're interested in that sort of thing:




Sunday, August 10, 2008

Now I Have a LiveJournal Ho Ho Ho

I don't actually plan to post much over there, but I've updated my Yahoo! Pipe to include all three of my blogs now: this one, the LiveJournal, and Travels With Our Cats.

I plan to start another ongoing blog in October (stay tuned for details), plus the obligatory NaNoWriMo progress/backup blog in November. Crazy!


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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm Going to Paradise!

After a day at the International Spy Museum, D and I returned to our hotel room, where this email was waiting for me:
Dear Mr. Chen,

On behalf of the staff and the instructors, I'd like to welcome you as
a student to Viable Paradise, and say congratulations!

This letter is a written confirmation of your acceptance to the 2008
Viable Paradise Writers Workshop, aka VP 12/XII...
There's more to the message, but that's the important bit. I was too surprised to be excited at first, since I had just applied yesterday and wasn't expecting to hear back for at least a week. But I got over that quickly.

I'm going to Viable Paradise! With John Scalzi! And Elizabeth Bear! And Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden! And fellow Half-Life 2 enthusiast Steven Gould, who also wrote Jumper! I probably shouldn't ask him what he thought of the movie, but maybe I'll ask his wife.

I'm not well acquainted with the works of the remaining two instructors, Debra Doyle and James D. McDonald, but I plan to do some reading before September...

Finally, in case you're wondering, the manuscript I submitted with my application was the current version of "Working Graves," which started with a dream I had in 1999. The opening scene is still mostly intact, though I've expanded upon it since that first draft. And I made a few important changes from the draft I submitted with my Clarion application.


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Monday, June 30, 2008

Third Time's the Charm, Right?

Early this morning, I email-submitted my application for the Viable Paradise writer's workshop. Then I went to sleep, and after breakfast, went to the post office to send a hard copy of my manuscript. Yes, today is the deadline for applying, and yes, I do wait until the last minute much...ly. (Adverb? Really? Whatever.)

You may recall that I applied to Clarion and Clarion West earlier this year, but was not accepted to either. No big--it actually made planning our road trip a little easier. VP happens at the end of September, by which time we'll be settled in Portland (or at least planted in a hotel nearby, looking for an apartment).

But even if I don't get into VP, I have an idea for a year-long writing project which I plan to start this fall. More details to come. And, of course, I'll be doing NaNoWriMo in November.

Meanwhile, here's my new list of things to do, with deadlines:
  1. Vote for Hugo Awards - July 7
  2. Apply for Stanford in Entertainment (SIE) Alumni Mentor Program - July 15
  3. Help Team Snout finish application for Ghost Patrol Game - July 18 (solve remaining pre-clues)
  4. Audition for Stanford Singer's Showcase - July 20 (find audio recordings)


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