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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5 Surprises As a Debut Novelist (A Guest Post by Beth Cato)

This morning's post comes from the awesome Beth Cato, whose debut novel The Clockwork Dagger comes out on September 16th. Everyone go buy it!

Beth hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a number-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

Beth's short fiction can be found in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many other magazines. The Clockwork Dagger is her first novel. The sequel, The Clockwork Crown, will be released in 2015.

Follow her at and on Twitter at @BethCato. Thanks for stopping by, Beth!

5 Surprises As a Debut Novelist

by Beth Cato

My lifelong dream is coming true. I'm going to be a published novelist. My steampunk fantasy novel The Clockwork Dagger is released by Harper Voyager on September 16th.

The road to publication has been a very educational experience. Here are five surprises, good and bad, that I've encountered over recent months.

5) People often ask about the movie.

"When does the movie come out?" is the first reaction of people about 1/3 of the time. Some folks are genuinely surprised that I have no control over this. But then, some folks wonder if I'm a millionaire now. Um, no. I'm pretty happy as a thousandaire, though.

4) Sometimes you do get a say in your cover.

I have read for years that most authors do not get to participate at all in the book cover creation process. I braced myself for this same fate. To my surprise and delight, Harper Voyager asked my feedback every step of the way. This is something that really depends on the editor and imprint, and I was blessed. Plus, my cover is gorgeous!

3) Nothing happens, then everything happens.

Writers know that the publishing industry is all about "hurry up and wait." Book publishers bring that to a whole new level. I will hear nothing about my book for months, and then, surprise! Here's a galley from UPS, and it's due back within two weeks! And answer all these questions for us ASAP! And do this! And that! *cue me panicking and doing all the things*

2) Agents are a godsend.

People focus on the necessity of having an agent to handle contract negotiations, but good agents are there every step of the way. If I have a concern, if I need a deadline tweaked, if my ego needs a salve, my agent is there.

1) Advanced Reader Copies are better than a pet rock.

A book with your name on the cover is very huggable. It likes to be carried around the house and to attend parties and to sit within arm's reach. Holding that book is the most amazing feeling in the world. Even knowing that this has been coming for months, I still get giggly sometimes and think, "This is really real!" It will be even more real soon when I have the real copies in hand. Wow.

The Clockwork Dagger comes out on September 16th. You can read the full first chapter at

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My London WorldCon (LonCon 3) Schedule

In a couple of weeks, I'll be attending LonCon 3, the 72nd annual WorldCon (and my first). Last week, they officially announced their programming schedule, and I'm pleased to say I'll be on a couple of panels. In addition to participating in the stuff below, I'll be bouncing around the con in a dizzy haze, pulling my hair out trying to decide which awesome thing to see at pretty much any given time.

Feel free to keep an eye out for me if you're going. My wife will be with me in London, but she's a muggle, so I'll be attending the con all by my lonesome. In other words, friendly company will be welcome. Not to mention this is my first time paneling, so I'd appreciate the moral support! Come say hi.

SFWA Reception

Friday 7:00pm

This doesn't appear to be an item on the official program (yet?), but SFWA is hosting a reception for members on Friday evening. I plan to attend.

From Indie to AAA

Saturday 4:30pm, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)

Should Indie games aim for AAA status, or are they better off as a forum for arts and creative development? Can the two live together?

Sylvia Wrigley, Gemma Thomson, Colin Harvey, James Swallow, J.W. Alden

Lizard Wizards in Space! Bethesda vs Bioware

Sunday 11:00am, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Panel examining the impact of Bioware and Bethesda videogames on recent gaming experiences. Baldur's Gate, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Skyrim have all advanced player experiences in games, providing us with rich worlds, exciting possibilities and diverse characters to play. Both companies pride themselves on allowing the player to choose their own pathway through the game, and to experience each world on their own terms. This panel investigates the strengths and weakness of these games, and looks at the ways they are influencing play.

Jenni Hill, Sylvia Wrigley, L. M. Myles, Ashley M.L. Brown, J.W. Alden

As you can see, both of my panels are related to video games. You might think I'd prefer to be on panels related to SFF or writing/publishing, but this is actually kind of a relief. As I mentioned above, this will be my first time as a panelist, and I feel very much like I'm jumping into the deep end. But talking about video games will make it easier for me to just nerd out up there without much impostor syndrome kicking in. Plus it means my "panel research" has consisted of playing Mass Effect, Skyrim, and a bunch of awesome indie games. So there's that.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Read "The Unworthy" in Fantasy Scroll Magazine

The second issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine hit the interweb today, featuring a flash piece of mine called "The Unworthy." Along with my story, you'll find great stuff by Mike Resnick, Brandon Barrows, and many other fine folks. They also pack each issue with author interviews, book and movie reviews, and more.

You can read the issue for free at the link above, but if you'd like to support the efforts of a brand new fantasy and science fiction magazine, you can purchase a copy for your mobile reader device of choice, or even set up a subscription.

"The Unworthy" is a fantasy story of mine told from the perspective of a divine creature taking measure of his creation. Fantasy Scroll Magazine interviewed me in March when they were running their Kickstarter campaign, and they asked me about the story. This is what I had to say back then:

When I was a kid, I saw an HBO movie called Cast a Deadly Spell. At the end of this movie (spoiler alert, circa 1991), the bad guy summons this giant, Lovecraftian monster. This was long before I'd read anything by Lovecraft, so the homage was lost on me back then. But for some reason, I felt strangely sympathetic toward this bestial horror, even when it started eating people. I couldn't help but wonder what was going through this powerful entity's mind. It had presumably been minding its own business, then suddenly found itself on Earth with these odd little beings staring up at it in terror and awe. This thought was the seed that eventually sprouted into The Unworthy, decades later.

If it sounds like it's up your alley, I hope you'll give it a read. If not, there's probably something else you'll enjoy in FSM.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kickstarter Watch: Fantasy Scroll Mag

If you read my last post, you may be familiar with Fantasy Scroll Mag, a new science fiction and fantasy magazine that will be publishing a story of mine called The Unworthy in one of its first issues. Fantasy Scroll Mag is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to support the launch of the magazine. This, of course, makes them perfect fodder for the next installment of Kickstarter Watch!

In their own words, Fantasy Scroll Magazine publishes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short stories, with one mission in mind: to provide high quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking speculative fiction. 

They recently released a small sample issue to give readers a glimpse of what to expect when the magazine launches, featuring two short stories you can read right now for free. They're also running a series of interviews on their Kickstarter updates page with the authors who will be contributing to future issues--including Yours Truly

If you're a reader of science fiction and fantasy, it's more important than ever to support new markets in the short fiction space. It's also worth mentioning that one of Fantasy Scroll's stretch goals is to be able to raise their pay for writers to pro-rates, and that would be fantastic. As of this writing, they're in their last week of funding. So please give them a read and consider kicking a few dollars their way to help out. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sale Braggage: "The Unworthy" Sold to Fantasy Scroll Mag

I am pleased to share a little good news from this past weekend. A story of mine called The Unworthy has been accepted for publication by Fantasy Scroll Mag, an upcoming speculative fiction magazine run by the creator of the Fantasy Scroll writing blog. From their website:

Fantasy Scroll Mag is a quarterly publication featuring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction. We are a brand new publication and our mission is to publish high-quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking speculative fiction. We plan to publish our first issue in the first half of 2014 and we are now in the process of collecting stories.

The Unworthy is a dark fantasy piece that leaped from some weird corner of my brain a couple of years ago when I first started experimenting at flash fiction length, and I'm glad it's found a home at Fantasy Scroll Mag.

FSM's editor-in-chief, Iulian Ionescu, invited me to submit something after he read Item Not As Described in UFO 2. I'm delighted to have my work featured in one of their first issues (I'm told it will be either the first or second), and it looks like I'll be sharing space with some talented authors. Please consider checking it out when the time comes. New speculative fiction markets are always welcome!

photo credit: Justin Shearer via cc

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kickstarter Watch: Unidentified Funny Objects 3

In the first of what may become a regular occurrence here on the site, I'd like to point you lovely people in the direction of a speculative fiction market currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. This particular market may be familiar to those of you who pay attention to my little corner of the internet: Unidentified Funny Objects 3.

UFO3 will be the third in an annual series of speculative humor anthologies edited by Alex Shvartsman. The first two are hilarious (if I do say so myself), and still available for purchase. I've been a big fan of these books since the first was released, and was pleased to have a story of my own featured in the last one, UFO2. One of the reasons I love the series so much is its focus on the humorous side of science fiction and fantasy, which doesn't usually get enough love from the wider array of short fiction markets.

Please take a look at UFO3's kickstarter page. If you like what you see, consider throwing a few bucks their way. A short press release from UFO Publishing with more info on the anthology follows:

UFO Publishing revealed cover art and attached headliners for the third annual Unidentified Funny Objects anthology of humorous science fiction and fantasy. 
Set to release in October 2014, UFO3 will feature original cover art by Tomasz Maronski and interior illustrations by Barry Munden. 
Series editor Alex Shvartsman announced that he already has original stories in from Piers Anthony and Karen Haber, as well as a pair of reprints from Robert Silverberg and Mike Resnick. 
Other headliners expected to contribute original stories to this volume are Esther Friesner, Tim Pratt, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim C. Hines, Gini Koch, and David Farland. 
Shvartsman said that several other high-profile authors have expressed interest in the project and may contribute original stories. 
A round of open submissions will be held starting March 1st. Shvartsman hopes to collect approximately 80,000 words of fiction for Volume 3, pending a successful crowd funding campaign.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Improve Your Writing At Odyssey Writing Workshop

I'm a bit late with this post, since the application period has been open for quite some time, but I thought I'd share some information about this year's Odyssey Writing Workshop at Saint Anselm College.

As many of you know, I attended Odyssey last summer, and it was an incredible, transformative experience. It improved my writing in ways that it would have taken me years to accomplish on my own, and it introduced me to a group of writers that will likely be on this journey with me for years to come. Odyssey marked a big turning point in my fledgling career as an author. I made my first pro-rates sale while I was at Odyssey and my second shortly after coming home. After graduating, I was able to become a member of Codex Writers Group and an associate member of SFWA. In short, attending Odyssey was perhaps the best thing I've ever done for my writing.

If you're in a place similar to where I found myself this time last year--feeling that you're on the cusp of growth, but unsure of how best to realize your potential--I highly recommend that you apply to Odyssey. It might be just what you need to take that big step forward. The application period is open until April 8th. There's lots more information in the press release below (including a blurb from Yours Truly) and at Also, feel free to ask me any questions you might have about my experience at Odyssey, either in the comments below or via email.


About Odyssey
Odyssey is one of the most highly respected workshops for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  Each year, adult writers from all over the world apply.  Only fifteen are admitted.  Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work.  The six-week program combines an advanced curriculum with extensive writing and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts.  Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Robert J. Sawyer, Ben Bova, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, Donald Maass, Sheila Williams, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons.  Fifty-eight percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.
This summer’s workshop runs from JUNE 9 to JULY 18, 2014.  Class meets for at least four hours each morning, five days a week.  Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures.  While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them.  Intensive, detailed lectures cover the elements of fiction writing in depth.  Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work.
The program is held on Saint Anselm College’s beautiful campus in Manchester, NH.  Saint Anselm is one of the finest small liberal arts colleges in the country, and its campus provides a peaceful setting and state-of-the-art facilities for Odyssey students.  College credit is available upon request.
The early action application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 8.  Tuition is $1,965, and housing in campus apartments is $812 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1,624 for a single room.
This year, Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend.  The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $1,965 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go.
Several other scholarships and a work/study position are also available.
Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey’s director and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work.  As an editor, Cavelos gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers.  She provides students with detailed, concrete, constructive critiques of their work.  They average over 1,500 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive.  Cavelos said, “I also meet individually with students several time over the course of the six weeks.  We discuss the student’s writing process and his strengths and weaknesses, and then explore ways in which his writing process might be altered to improve his weak areas.  These discussions often lead to breakthrough realizations and new strategies.”
Meet Our 2014 Writers-in-Residence
Melanie Tem’s work has received the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. She has published numerous short stories, eleven solo novels, two collaborative novels with Nancy Holder, and two with her husband Steve. She is also a published poet, an oral storyteller, and a playwright.  Steve Rasnic Tem is widely considered one of the top short story writers working today. He is the author of over 400 published short stories and winner of the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. He has had numerous short story collections published as well as six novels.  Melanie and Steve served as writers-in-residence at Odyssey 2005, and the result was an amazing, insight-filled week that the class still talks about to this day.  They are amazing teachers and mentors.
Other Guest Lecturers
Lecturers for the 2014 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field:  authors Elizabeth Hand, Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Alexander Jablokov; and editor Gordon Van Gelder.
Odyssey Graduates
Graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop have been published in the top fiction magazines and by the top book publishers in the field.  Their stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, AnalogAsimov’sWeird TalesLightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Clarkesworld.  Some recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Elisha Barber by E. C. Ambrose, published by DAW; Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner, from Carolrhoda Books; Tarnished by Rhiannon Held, from Tor Books; and Sharp: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes, published by Roc Books.
Comments from the Class of 2013
“There are so many courses that pass around the same rules of writing.  At Odyssey, I learned far more than I thought there ever could be to know, in greater depth and detail than I thought possible.  Odyssey has transformed how I view the act of writing, and how I view myself as a writer and a person.” –Sofie Bird
“You hear the term ‘life-changing experience’ tossed around a lot, and usually it doesn’t mean much.  Usually, it’s a marketing cliché.  But with Odyssey, I can’t think of a more accurate descriptor.  My life has been changed. Amazing course, amazing lectures, amazing classmates, and an amazing instructor–I’ll never forget my time here.” –J. W. Alden
Other Odyssey Resources and Services
The Odyssey Web site,, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly blog.  Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the site or e-mail