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Thoughts in Passing

As a panelist at conventions, I am fortunate enough to be put in a position where I need to intensively study a certain story-related question. It changes my reading list. It changes the way that I read my reading list. It changes the way I read things that are not on my reading list. Maybe you're not on any panels. Maybe you don't go to conventions. You can still benefit from a narrow focus on the topic. Find a nearby convention, choose a panel that you're interested in, and plan as if you're going to be talking on that panel: questions, observations, and reading lists. You may be surprised by how much you gain from this.

What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:

I recently wrapped up a short writing project. I've gone back to working on my novel(s), except the next 6 weeks are full of conventions, related convention panel prep, and teaching classes. Classes! I am teaching classes! If you are interested in these, register. If someone you know in the Twin Cities area would be interested, please pass this information along. Register now!


Read more:
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New Aswiebe's Market List update! Unshattering wants SF/F/Lit leading to a better future, pays $.10/wd. All the details and more: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
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Rosie Revere, Engineer is the best children's book I've read to my kids in a couple of months. It's about a little girl who stopped showing people the things she invented after she got laughed at. It is funny in the absurd way that kids love, it has detailed illustrations that can be studied for long periods of time, and it gives great reinforcement to the idea that failure is only a reason to try again, better. My son bonded really hard with the girl in the book because he wants to be an engineer, too.


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Beautifully written. Time travel, betrayal, revenge, family, love, cybernetics, and multiple identities, linked together into a coherent story that shoots ideas into your skull like bullets.

Read if: You're interested in a multi-layered story, and I do mean multi.
Skip if: You dislike spiral structure stories.
Length: Short story, 5,881 words.
First Published: Clarkesworld, Feb 2017. A good issue, this one!
Link (FREE!): http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/harris_02_17/
How'd I get it: I too clicked on a link.
Where'd I read it: In bits and pieces on the computer.
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I loved this book. I am ALL GOOD with flawed female protagonists who are proficiently violent. I am also a third culture kid like the protagonist (I even grew up in Chad and frequently visited Cameroon, featured in this book). It didn't give me linguistic superpowers, although I can pick up languages pretty well, but many of the character references clicked with me as being "done right."

Reading other reviews, I'm seeing a lot of comparisons to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I disagree. That book is drenched in and fueled by sexual violence. This one isn't. The protagonist was raped in the past, but it is described in pretty much just those words. It isn't dwelt on, and it isn't described in detail. Judging by the description of later books in the series, sexual violence may become a theme, and so I will approach with care.

Read if: You enjoy female protagonists who feel no need to conform to pressure to be "nice" or likeable.
Skip if: You avoid books where you feel the protagonist has unrealistic skills.

When did I read it: In one gulp, over the course of a morning in which I should have been doing other things--and wasn't.
How did I get it: From the library, after BookBub brought it to my notice.
Length: Novel
Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004IK8PWS
First published: 2011
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Grimdark Magazine wants the darker, grittier side of fantasy and science fiction. All the details and more market list updates:
http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
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In which I continue reviewing things I have read, especially short stories.

Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty's Place Cafe
Naomi Kritzer--ahem, Hugo award-winning author Naomi Kritzer

This story does what it says on the tin. It is mostly about past events and what people need to get resolution, framed against the background of an imminent danger to the whole world.

Read if: You're looking for LGBTQ warm fuzzies.
Skip if: You only like your end-of-the-world stories extremely apocalyptic.
Length: Short story, 4,743 words.
First Published: Clarkesworld, March 2017.
Link (FREE!): http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_03_17/
How'd I get it: I too clicked on a link.
Where'd I read it: Over a breakfast of pancakes, which seemed quite appropriate!
Disclaimer: I know the author.



Of interest: Apparently, when the story was initially posted it cut off at the following paragraph. That ending would have left the story with a very different feeling!

It was dark out. Someone from the town had dragged out a box of fireworks left over from last year’s 4th of July and everyone took turns lighting them off, including me. (Mom had never let us have fireworks when I was a kid, because we might blow ourselves up, but if there was ever a time for YOLO, it’s when there’s a 4.3 kilometer asteroid on a collision
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One of my resolutions (along with combing my hair in a reasonable time frame every morning) is to write reviews of what I read and like, so that I can remember these things later. Especially short stories, which I can't rate by simply clicking on a star rating on Goodreads.

Detroit Hammersmith, Zero-Gravity Toilet Repairman [Retired]
Suzanne Palmer

I enjoyed this story tremendously. A repairman who's seen it all sees something new. The story's lighthearted, heartwarming, and it scratches that itch for stories about ordinary working Joes on space stations.

Read if: You liked James White's Sector General books or that one episode in B5 with the repair guys.
Don't read if: You're looking for SF that breaks new ground.
Length: Novelette
First published: Analog, September 2016
Link*: https://www.amazon.com/Analog-Magazine-September-2016-Various/dp/B01J6BMCSQ
How'd I get it: A magazine giveaway in the SFWA suite at MidAmericon II.
Where'd I read it: In the sauna at the gym. I swear, I wasn't lightheaded. This is also how I discovered that the sauna heat will melt some magazine glue bindings.

* They don't have back issues available for purchase. Not even digital ones. Let people give you money!

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Blind Spot publishes French and English SFF in translation (they go both ways), pays $.08/word. Details and more updates:

http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Last week was the end of my "catching up on email and socializing and house-cleaning" two week break after finishing a huge project. I dealt with some critical and overdue emails, I definitely got out of the house and saw people, and Phil claims the house looks better even though I can't see a difference, so I guess I'll call it a success. Time to write novels again, which is somewhat intimidating since I've been working on other projects for the last few months. Back to the grind!

Other good things...

I did the second Women in Sci-Fi and Writing Female Characters panel. There was pretty art (it took place in an art gallery in Lowertown) and cupcakes! I said some things that I hope sounded smart, sold two copies of my book, collected a couple of new email addresses for my newsletter, and was gifted with a batcat hat (okay, fine, it's a pussy hat, but I dislike that term even though I understand the reasoning) made by my dear Alis. I thought the event went pretty well.


New microwave! This one doesn't turn itself on and off at random intervals, so I am less worried that an electrical fault will make it burst into flames in the middle of the night when we are all sleeping. It displays actual numbers in the timer instead of weird dancing bars that look like the countdown on a Predator bomb. And it's black and silver, which Cassius thought was really awesome.

I realized that I had missed a deadline (a month ago!) and instead of giving up and being sad because I couldn't do a thing, I emailed people and asked if I could apply late, and they said yes! So I did!

I went to a living room concert and listened to awesome steampunk music, played with my camera and took photos, caught up with friends, made new acquaintances, and heard new jokes. It was good times. And seeing people appreciate my photos later is a nice egoboo.


Diabolical Plots (by David Steffen of the Submission Grinder) included my story in his recommendations for Hugo/Nebulas this year. Eeeee! I've never had someone recommend one of my stories for an award before, so this is a pretty exciting first.

Phil's award bonus from work came through, so I gave him a full grocery list without worrying about whether we had enough to cover the cost. Sometimes it's the small things.

Learned about bubble paragraphs and skipping stone backstory intro scene structure stuff. (Yup, Ginger, your name-coining has stuck!)

I cooked tater tot hotdish for the first time because Steph was posting looking for recipes and gave me a craving. It was delicious gloppy comfort food even if I'm the only one in the house who likes that kind of thing. Also, something about the tater tots makes my brain think it's acceptable eating for breakfast too. Ooookay, silly brain.

I have sparkly red fingernails, and they make me very happy. I don't have a lot of time for frivolous self-care stuff, so this is a special treat.


###

Bonus good things from the previous week, which I didn't post on time:

Making origami flowers and paper "rain" for Theia, and seeing how much she enjoyed playing gardener. (She was a gardener and I was the botanist telling her how flowers grow in this scenario, apparently.)

Insisting on taking the boy to see a healthcare professional, and having it be the right parental decision. This is not a good thing because he has strep (boo!), but because I never feel confident making this kind of call, so I'm glad I didn't waste our time and money.

Chatting with the spouse about publishing industry stuff, specifically novellas and how the markets for them are changing and why.

Writing a quick piece of micro-fic and submitting it minutes later. Fifteen words long!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Retro Future Wants Love-Themed Pulp SF. All the details plus more market news: http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
For the last part of 2016, I was posting three good things daily on Facebook. It helped my mood, and it helped me notice good things despite stress and sickness. I wanted to keep doing something like this. The plan is to post 10 good things weekly on Monday. This one is a little late. Oops!

The kids went back to kindergarten and preschool on Tuesday! This was a surprise, because my calendar had contradictory information so I was braced for a whole 'nother week of them both being home all day long. Surprise!

1. Theia was happy to go to preschool. Hopefully this means the long break has allowed her to forget that she was not wanting to go for a while.

2. I got summoned for jury duty! This has never happened before. I'm excited.

3. Cardinals in winter. Worst camouflage. Best bird-watching. The certified urban wildlife habitat beside Cassius' school bus stop has three or four pairs of cardinals living in it or nearby, so I often see them flying across the street, perching on snow-covered branches, and otherwise being photogenic.

4. Phil got me a new battery for my laptop. He used some of his Amazon reward from work to help *me* do my work. :) Now I'll have more than 10 minutes of battery life again. Such luxury!

5. I got the My Little Ponies of the Apocalypse t-shirt that I ordered as my reward for hitting a weight loss benchmark (thanks, pneumonia!). The kids think the t-shirt is of pirate ponies.
Ponies of the Apocalypse

6. I finished the final draft of my high fantasy novella, "The Unkindness of Ravens," and submitted it to Tor.com. Yay! That is the most rewritten piece I've ever created. It's about 29,000 words long, and only about 10,000 of those words are from the story I started with when I decided to do this. And there I was, thinking that all I would need to do was change the beginning and ending a bit and add a few thousand words. Ha.

7. Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest contacted me out of the blue, to ask MinnSpec to spread the word about the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop. I enjoy reading his blog, so that was pretty cool! Also, for pity's sake people. Have a website, and put a contact form on it!

8. I went back to the gym for more than just the sauna! It's been a while because The Sickness meant I couldn't breathe well enough to exercise. Saturday I did a yoga class, and it felt great.

9. First sale of 2017--a reprint sale of an eco-horror short story to an upcoming anthology. Huzzah reprint sale!

10. I started Project: Clean All The Things. Picking up went on my Not-To-Do List while I was cramming to get "Unkindness" finished, so I promised I'd spend the first two weeks after finishing it using my regular writing time to CLEAN (and catch up on emails).
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It's time for ... drumroll ... the annual awards eligibility post! This year I only have one thing, so it's easy. And it's a short story, so it's also easy to read!

Escape Pod published "In Their Image" in February 2016. You can read the story or download the MP3 here: http://escapepod.org/2016/02/04/ep519-in-their-image/

This is a sci-fi story about religions on alien planets and finding your purpose. It contains philosophy, fuzzy pink murderbears, and good intentions.

Readers say:
"thought-provoking"
"just that fantastic"
"... Speaker for the Dead which this reminded me strongly of, in a good way."
"What a great story about social pigeonholing. I could write stuff about how much that happens in real life, but it would come over as preachy, and one of the (other) great things about this story is that it isn't preachy. "
"Great fodder for discussion, especially among the inquisitive and open-minded."

Read it! http://escapepod.org/2016/02/04/ep519-in-their-image/

I did write a fair amount last year, but it was mostly longform and so it didn't result in many published short stories (although I've already sold 2 that will most likely be coming out in 2017). Stay tuned for posts about what I was writing last year and what's coming up next year.

(SFWA folks, Nebula Awards nominations are open until February 15th. The Hugo Award nominations are also open. You can nominate if you have/had a membership to the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Worldcons.)
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Scout wants near-future hard SF, pays $.08/word. More details and other updates: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
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What's your creative process?

I write fiction, both novel-length and shorter forms. The bulk of my published work is short stories. I have slightly different creative processes, depending on what I'm working on.

I write down story ideas, elements, and characters as they come to me. I tag them by what kind of thing they are (genre, subgenre, theme, character, plot element, setting, etc.) and how high potential I think they are. That way I can find specific ones again.
I always need to figure out what the (at least) two plotlines of the story are before I can begin to outline. I start with an overarching "big plot" story arc idea. Then I need to figure out at least one personal story arc. This is where I start to get ideas about the characters and gender, culture, societal roles, etc. Setting and worldbuilding usually occur organically during the research and writing process.
When I want to write a new short story, I usually look at current open calls for themed submissions, research the editor's personal tastes and the publication, and see if anything connects with an existing short story idea or an idea that occurs to me as I read the open calls.

I listen to several writing podcasts and occasionally read articles/newsletters (less so now that I don't have as much reading time). When I find a really good podcast, I save it. When I find a useful article, I keep the link on my "Shiny or Useful" page at http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/shiny.html. I plan to use short stories more as practice labs for working on some of these techniques, but I rarely do so now.

For short stories, I also figure out two more elements before I start writing. One is what thing will be useful or awesome new knowledge to other people. The other is what Big Question, if any, I want to bury deeply in the subtext.
For novels, I usually go in with a Really Big Idea and do a lot of research and snowball/spiderweb method brainstorming by hand before I start linear plotting.

I outline by hand in my notebook. The book- or story-length outline is relatively short, usually only a few pages. I outline each scene in more detail immediately before writing it. At about the 1/3-1/2 point I usually have to stop and tear the big plot apart and entirely redo it. Sometimes this involves extensive rewriting of what was already written.

After writing, I gather as many critiques as I can get and work through making revisions. Then I start submitting. I often make significant changes depending on what editorial feedback I receive or what publication I am targeting (for short stories). Some of those are only for submitting it that one time, but others will permanently change the story that I submit from that point forward, whether it is to the same editor or a different one.
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Four Twin Cities authors discuss being women in science fiction and writing female protagonists, along with a brief reading!



Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1805144003095811/
Magers & Quinn event page: https://secure.magersandquinn.com//index.php?main_page=event

About the panelists:
Victorya Chase is a writer and educator living in the the Midwest where she works in medical education teaching the importance of narrative competency and understanding the various cultural and personal stories at play in the exam room. Her writing has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Lamplight, and The Unlikely Journal of Entomology. She is the author of Marta Martinez Saves the World.

Kelly Barnhill writes novels for children and short stories for adults and poetry that she whispers in the dark when no one is listening. Her first novel, The Mostly True Story of Jack, received four-starred reviews, and her second, Iron Hearted Violet, received a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her most recent novel is The Witch’s Boy. Kelly lives on a city street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a field and a creek behind her house. A coyote runs by every morning at six a.m. and a heron flies over her yard just before the sun sets on slow summer evenings. Kelly is a fast runner and a steady hiker and a good camper. She also makes delicious pie. She has received grants and awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Loft. She has three very smart kids and one very smart husband and a dog who she believes might be one thousand years old. No one can say for sure. (The dog, incidentally, is very smart too.)

Abra Staffin-Wiebe has sold stories to publications including Jim Baen's Universe and Tor.com. She specializes in optimistic dystopian SF, modern fairy tales, cheerful horror, liquid state steampunk, dark humor, and heartwarming grotesqueries. She spent several years living abroad in India and Africa before marrying a mad scientist and settling down to live and write in Minneapolis. Discover more of her fiction at her website, http://www.aswiebe.com/, or find her on the social media site of your choice.

Lyda Morehouse writes about what gets most people in trouble: religion and politics. Her first novel Archangel Protocol, a cyberpunk hard-boiled detective novel with a romantic twist, won the 2001 Shamus for best paperback original (a mystery award given by the Private Eye Writers of America), the Barnes & Noble Maiden Voyage Award for best debut science fiction, and was nominated for the Romantic Times Critic's Choice Award. She followed up Archangel Protocol with three more books in the AngeLINK universe: Fallen Host (Roc, 2002), Messiah Node (Roc, 2003), and Apocalypse Array (Roc, 2004). Apocalypse Array made the short list for the Philip K. Dick award. She lives in Saint Paul with her partner of twenty years and their amazingly adorable son, Mason.

Welcome!

Nov. 2nd, 2016 06:15 pm
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Hello there!
I'm Abra Staffin-Wiebe, a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I've had short stories appear at publications including Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Odyssey Magazine. When not writing, I shoot photographs, collect folk tales, and wrangle two small children, three large cats, and one medium-sized mad scientist. You can find out more at my website: http://www.aswiebe.com/.

Upcoming events and appearances

4th Street Fantasy Convention
St.Louis Park, MN, June 17-19, 2016

CONvergence Convention
Bloomington, MN, June 30 - July 3, 2016

Térata Extravanganza!
Big V's Saloon, St. Paul, MN, July 24, 2016
http://www.meetup.com/MinnSpec/events/232398314/
A delightful event filled with music, art, and dark fiction!

Submit It Now! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Short Stories
Teaching 2-day workshop at The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
August 6th AND August 13th
Openings are limited. Register now!


MidAmeriCon II (AKA WorldCon 74)
Kansas City, MO, August 17-21, 2016

Other Places Online

Note: I don't usually post the same thing in multiple places, except for my market list updates, new publications, and other major news (writing-related or not).

http://www.aswiebe.com/ - The best place to find things I've written.

Livejournal - Here! I don't post as often on Livejournal as I used to, but I tend to keep my longer daily life posts and the important updates over here, along with the occasional photo or recipe post.

Facebook - Short updates about my life, bemused writing-related comments, as well as random links I enjoy or find useful. You know. I use it like most people do.

Twitter - Mostly SF/F and writing-related posts these days.

Goodreads - Strictly business. This is my author account on Goodreads, not the personal one that I deluge with my to-reads.

I also occasionally post on Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and Ello.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Pete Sutton's Sick City Syndrome is now out! "But Abra," you may ask, "what does that have to do with you?" Well, Pete included some material from other authors in his book as part of the worldbuilding. My contribution, "Dear Miss Dilemma," is near the middle of Chapter 1. Conveniently, that is within Amazon's "Look Inside" free sample. Go, read my piece, and get a taste of the rest of the book for free!

Dear Miss Dilemma,

I've followed your column for years, but I never expected to be writing to you for help! I hope you can advise me as to what I should do. I am very worried about my nai nai. She has always been an independent and strong-willed woman, but I know she feels lost since my grandfather's death. In her grief, she has become irrational.

She denies that my grandfather's ghost exists.
Read more.



Sick City Syndrome is currently available as an ebook, with a paperback version to follow in late October.

About the book:
What if it was accepted that there really were ghosts? That mediums could actually talk to the dead. That your dearly departed continued to exist on a spiritual plane and that at certain places, or in certain people they could manifest?

Susan is living in a fog of grief after the death of her fiancé. When she is given a dossier that promises answers as to why he died she starts to investigate.

Susan is about to discover that the city is sick and things are much weirder than she ever imagined.
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Helios Quarterly wants SF, Fantasy, and Horror about *secrets*. All the details and more publishing news here: http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html

Thoughts in Passing

Now that the kids are in school (the littlest one for only three mornings a week), I'm struggling with the eternal question: how do I budget my time? Writing is one of those things where almost every aspect of it will expand to fill up however much time you give it. The famous productivity metaphor of putting the big rock in the bucket first doesn't work as well when instead of rocks and sand you have seven fire hoses! We'll see how it goes.
What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:

Presentations and novella revisions, mostly. I also heard back about my tiny part in a project that was tabled a while ago--because they needed to pay me because it's going ahead! That was a delightful surprise, like finding $20 in your winter coat when you take it out of storage. You'll hear more about this once it's out.
Read more
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Book Smugglers wants stories of gods and/or monsters, pays $.06/wd. All the details and more new markets:
http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html


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