Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Read "Möbius" in Nature

The latest issue of Nature is out, and if you turn to the "Futures" page, you'll find a story of mine called Möbius. You can also read it for free online, along with all the other science fiction stories in the Futures series. As a science enthusiast, I'm thrilled to have my work featured in one of the most respected science journals in the world. Getting into Nature's Futures has been a goal for a long time.

Normally with these heads up posts, I like to write a little about the story behind the story. This time, however, I was invited to write a guest post about Möbius on the Futures blog, so if you'd like to learn a little about the inspiration behind my time travel tale, head over there and give it a read.

In this post, I thought I'd give a glimpse into the actual writing process. I wrote Möbius last year at Odyssey Writing Workshop. This was a few weeks in, and I had a fair amount of lead time before I had to turn in a new story for critique. Unfortunately, the story I'd been working on wasn't going well. The whirlwind experience of Odyssey had wreaked havoc on my creative process (mostly in a good way), and the wheels just weren't turning smoothly. Burnout was setting in. Eventually, I threw my hands up and did something crazy. The night before my due date, I tossed the story I'd been toiling at all week and stayed up into the wee hours of the morning writing something entirely new (this would later come to be known as "pulling a J.W. Alden" by my Odyssey classmates). Möbius was the end result.

I should also mention that this sale came with a lesson. I actually wrote Möbius with Nature in mind. But by the time I'd finished it, its word count had swelled to the point that it was too long for them. At first, rather than following my gut and trimming the story down, I stubbornly put off sending it to the market I'd written it for. After a couple of "close but no cigar" rejections, I finally put my ego aside and killed my darlings. I made the necessary cuts to get under Nature's word requirements. And what do you know? It sold. So follow your gut, writers. Even when it means making those tough cuts. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a story end up in its intended home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Read "The Dragon Weeps" in Sorcerous Signals (and Mystic Signals)

The Dragon Weeps is one of the first short stories I ever cobbled together when I started taking this writing thing seriously. Looking back now, it seems so long ago. When I think back to those fabled days of yore (aka 2012), I think, "Man . . . a baby wrote that." I'm such a different writer now. My entire process has changed, from the way I approach ideas, to the way I shape the stories themselves. What a difference two years makes.

But The Dragon Weeps has a special place in my heart. It was my first real attempt at fantasy, and it ended up spawning an entire world that I still like to play in from time to time. And it was the story that made me fall in love with writing short fiction.

That's why I'm proud that The Dragon Weeps has found a new home. You can read it for free today in the current issue of Sorcerous Signals, along with stories by Laura J. Underwood, Margaret L. Carter, and many more. If you'd rather read from the page than the screen, you can also purchase the current issue of Mystic Signals. In fact, because you're all awesome (and because Wolfsinger Publications is awesome), you can use this code for a 25% discount on the issue: 9HW5GHYR. Tell 'em J.W. Alden sent ya.

This is the third time The Dragon Weeps has been published. I was planning to retire it after this one, but then Deborah Walker challenged me to sell it three more times. Well, I've never been one to back down from a challenge.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Overdue Update (on Writing, LonCon, and Life)

When I transitioned my blog away from weekly "content" style updates in favor of a more traditional author site, I knew this would mean posting less. I did not, however, anticipate leaving the poor thing in a lurch for months at a time! I can't believe my last update was in July (not counting Beth Cato's visit in my last post).

I'm afraid I can't fall back on the old "nothing has been going on, so I had nothing to write about" excuse, either. This has been a very eventful year for me. Monumental, even. So with this post, I'm going to attempt to cover some of the major happenings in my life (writing and otherwise) in a digestible amount of words. This may prove difficult. Bear with me.

Love & Marriage

I don't often talk about my personal life online. It's not that I have some secret identity that I don't want to reveal; it's just my nature to keep to myself. I've never been the type to vent or share publicly, and even now, I feel conflicted over whether this is a good or bad thing. There are times when I'm jealous of those who find it easy to talk about what they had for breakfast on Facebook. Most of the time, I just assume that no one cares what's going on in my life. In this case, however, I couldn't possibly post a general update on these last few months without mentioning the event that jumpstarted the roller coaster that was this summer.

Pictured: Actual Hands
This past June, I married Allison, my girlfriend of nine years. We tied the knot amid an intimate gathering of family and friends in Allison's home state of Michigan. After nearly a decade of build-up and more than a year of stressful planning, everything went wonderfully. The venue was perfect, the weather was perfect, and the bride was perfect.

Allison and I had already been living "the married life" for years, so now it's largely back to normal for us. But it felt amazing to finally walk the aisle and make it official. Here's to many more years to come.

London Calling

After getting hitched, Allison and I took a honeymoon trip to London, which just so happened to coincide with LonCon 3, the 72nd annual WorldCon. Leading up to the trip, I was a little nervous. Not only was this going to be my first WorldCon, but I'd also been invited to be a program participant. My schedule was light—only two panels—but I'd never been on the other side of the table before. As you may have surmised, public speaking isn't exactly my thing. Couple that with a hefty dose of impostor syndrome, and I wasn't feeling supremely confident, you might say. Once I got there, however, I met up with several members of Codex (an online writing group I belong to), and my worries soon departed. These awesome folks reminded me that I belonged there; these were my people. I even managed to do some "schmoozing" at the SFWA reception without taking up residence in a shadowy corner and staring.

When my panels came around, I was lucky enough to be matched up with some great people there, as well. My fellow panelists were friendly, funny, and easy to have an interesting talk with. The moderators did a great job keeping things moving. It didn't take long before I forgot there was a room full of people staring at me, and I was able to just let myself have a good time. I had a blast, and I'm so glad I took the opportunity to get an experience like this under my belt. I'll definitely be open to paneling again at any future cons I attend. Speaking of which, I hope to become a regular con-hopper over the next couple of years. I'm going to do my best to get to next year's WorldCon in Spokane, at the very least.

Flying Nanny Deterrent at Borough Market
After the con, Allison and I still had time to explore, but nowhere near as much as we'd have liked. There was so much to see and do in London, so much history to take in.

We visited several attractions, including the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory Greenwich (which featured a steampunk exhibit), and more. But some of the most enjoyable times arose when we abandoned plans and just explored the city, hopping trains, ducking into stores, having lunch in corner coffee shops.

It's safe to say we fell in love with London. We hated leaving, even after homesickness began to set in. At one point, we even priced apartments in the city, half jokingly, just to see. I'd hoped to see some of the English countryside as well, but there just wasn't enough time. Hopefully we can return one day soon.


So as you can see, it's been quite a year. But I've still been writing.

When it comes to the written word, 2014 has been a year of experimentation for me. I've been frequently changing up my routine, my schedule, my short-term goals, even some of my long-term goals. This was all spurred by the post-Odyssey daze I experienced last year, where I spent a lot of time trying to find the right way to internalize and capitalize on that infusion of knowledge. It's been very interesting to analyze my progress now that I'm more than a year out from that crazy experience.

The Revise-O-Box of Sadness
From a sheer numbers standpoint, my productivity has taken a downturn. This is partly due to the aforementioned experiments with routine, but also because I went through a period before and during Odyssey where I pumped out a lot of new drafts. Even a year removed, I still have a large stack of stories that must be revised before seeing the light of day. I also made the somewhat drastic decision to take all of my pre-Odyssey stuff off the market when I came home last year. These just added to that revise pile. So a lot of my work hours have been spent revising and rewriting rather than generating new stories. I expect this to continue for some time, because I really want that revise pile to go away. I'm bummed that I haven't managed to slay it yet.

I've also had some other projects floating around in my brain. I can hear the novel bug scratching under my desk somewhere, and I wouldn't be surprised if it leaped out and bit me sometime in the next year. More imminently, I've been captivated by an idea for an interactive fiction game. This one has been on my mind for a long time, and I've actually begun to lay some of the groundwork for it already. I'm going to be adapting one of my earliest short stories. I spoke briefly about this project on one of the panels I was on at WorldCon, which served to give the project more priority in my muse-brain. I spoke about it publicly, so it's real now. I need to get to work on it. Moving forward, I'll likely be spending my writing time alternating between this project and the aforementioned revision pile.

The downturn in words produced this year hasn't been quite as disheartening as it could have been, probably because it's been balanced out by a dose of writerly goodness here and there throughout the year. WorldCon was one of those. I've also sold two more stories since my last update: Möbius to Nature, and The Dragon Weeps (a reprint of my first short story) to Sorcerous Signals. Both will be published soon, accompanied by my usual heads up here. There's still a couple months to go in 2014, so maybe I can squeeze another sale out this year. Are you listening, publication gods?

If you managed to read all that, thank you! I'll try not to let a comparable gulf develop between updates next time around, though I am looking forward to a much more relaxed, routine 2015.