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Thoughts in Passing

I'm in the middle of a massive hack-and-slash on a finished novella project, cutting 29,200 words down to 25,000 so that I can submit it a shorter version to a particular place. That means I need to cut enough words that they would make a good-sized short story all by themselves. I'm about a quarter done. I approach this project in the spirit of taking out everything that I possibly can, from adjectives to not-entirely-critical character interactions to whole scenes that can be summarized or omitted.

That is not how I normally approach editing. I don't believe that cutting down to the bone is best for every story. You can lose a lot of your personal voice and style that way. (I still cut my fair share of weasel words and plot going nowhere and bits that only exist to get from Point A to Point B, I assure you!)

I've also cut a couple hundred words from my "finished" long version. Maybe 1/10th of the time, the shorter version is stronger, not just different. I don't recommend gutting your story simply to see what works better that way, but it's a good exercise to try once. Save the original version first!

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

I held back on announcing this, because reasons, but I have a new publication to announce! My short story, "Miracle Material," appears in Mother's Revenge: A Dark and Bizarre Anthology of Global Proportions.

In this mixed genre group of eco-tales, thirty-two authors from around the globe offer up some lessons in why it's wise to be kind to Mother Earth. Read and take heed. Your very life may depend on it!


 
And if you're in Minneapolis, next Sunday I'm leading a free workshop on PoV (Point of View). Come and say hi!


Meetup event: https://www.meetup.com/MinnSpec/events/239675908/

(Read the rest of this Aswiebe's Market List update here: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2017.html#081617)
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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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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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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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It feels like this week has been full of socializing, although that's partly because any week where I see friends more than once feels crazy-busy!

It also feels like this week has been horrible for productivity, and that is true for a couple of reasons. Primary among them is that I have been a bit stuck in the two novels that I'm writing in parallel. Not stuck as in I-don't-know-what-to-do-next, but stuck as in I-need-to-plot-the-next-bit (side project Codename Dragon Succubus) and I-need-to-do-lots-of-research-first-and-I-don't-wanna (main project Real Name Scorpion Dance). And I've been feeling somewhat stressed and responding to it in my usual unhelpful avoidance way. Grr.

Speaking of which, notice how I'm writing a journal entry now instead of writing? Sure, my goal is to write a journal entry every week and it's been over a month since my last one, but that doesn't mean it isn't avoidance. It just means I am super-well-supplied with other things to do. Like sort through the thousand-plus emails in my inbox, which is next on my avoidance plan for the day. Oops, sorry, this is my Mother's Day Away. Make that my "Relaxation Plan." There, that sounds better.

I've started using my gym membership to the YMCA, which is going pretty well. During the week, when Cassius is in preschool, timing doesn't work out so well for me being able to go and take a full class and use whatever's left of the 2 hours of free babysitting to write, so I usually just hit the machines for a while, shower, and then edit for a half-hour before I have to pick up the kids and get on a bus to take Cassius to preschool (his preschool is in the afternoon). I do like the working out part, though, even if I wish I could make my time usage there more efficient to take advantage.

Also, annoyingly, even though we won a month of "Whole Family" membership, that doesn't mean I can get the member rate for Cassius' swim lessons. You have to register about a month in advance for that, and you have to have the child be a full member both IN ADVANCE when you register, and AT the time of the lessons. Grr. Ripoff. Still getting him lessons, though. Just not sure if family membership is going to be worth anything more than my individual membership, because it doesn't really get us anything extra.

Our poor girl kitty is slowly improving. We found out a couple of months ago that she had kidney failure, which led to near-lethal high blood pressure, which led to lethargy, refusal to eat, and one of her eyes having blood vessels rupture inside of it. She already had cataracts and so was mostly blind, but with that, she became completely blind on that side. I don't know if her sight will come back (even slightly) once the blood has all left the eye. It was totally black, filled with blood. Now I can see the rim of her iris again and there's a pale pink cloud in the center of her eye where the blood is slowly being reabsorbed. Her blood pressure is under control with 2x daily medication. And apparently cats can live with kidney failure for several years, although it's best if they eat a special diet for animals with kidney failure, and she's picky.

Lots of fun with socializing lately.

A pack of Phil's female relatives came up from Wisconsin to visit. We drove through downtown looking at all the lights that turned purple in memory of Prince. We went bra shopping at the Mall of America (so much not fun, but necessary). We ate at IKEA and they went shopping while I lounged on a couch and fiddled with edits. We went to Surly Brewery, where they were sad that they could not purchase growlers and I learned why they have so many glasses from drinking establishments they've visited on "girls weekends." Then we went to Betty Danger's Country Club (by the owner of Psycho Suzi's), enjoyed the ferris wheel tremendously, ate the delicious foods, and utterly failed in our attempt to visit her other two establishments, partly because the designated driver doesn't parallel park ... and this is the city.

Dave had a biking pub crawl birthday party where he asked the guests to be made up as "subtle" clowns. I was able to make it to the Eastlake portion of the night. Our whole family went to the Sabathani Prince block party earlier in the afternoon, where we mostly watched the kids go down bouncy house slides and bounce around in the bouncy maze. Total madhouse. Cassius also asked for a snowplow balloon animal, which was a real challenge for the balloon clown. I asked for a snake with pop eyes, which I gave to the birthday boy later. Also managed to get face paint done for the clown birthday party at the prince block party. Multitasking!

The rest of the week(ish) in brief:

May in Minneapolis means the May Day Parade. Thanks to Drew's friend Anna for letting us join the house-and-lawn party that she throws during the parade. I took many pictures.

Cassius brought home baby chicks from preschool, and we successfully kept the cats from eating them during their overnight visit. Cassius is good and gentle with chicks. Theia not so much.

Cassius lost Theia and I in the library, freaked out, and ran out of the building, only to be caught a block later. So scary. Spouse yelled at me a lot. Full story from Fb: We were at the library in Uptown. I took Theia into the bathroom to change her, and when I came back out, Cassius was GONE. Not in the kids' play area, not among the book shelves, not in the sitting area. Turns out, he didn't hear me tell him where we were going, freaked out when he didn't see us, and RAN OUT OF THE LIBRARY (after us, he thought). Thank God for the concerned stranger who came back to find me, the ones who pointed which direction he'd gone, and the ones who stopped him and helped. He made it about a block away, in the direction of his preschool (also in Uptown). Most of us have that "I lost my parents" (in the grocery store, etc.) memory. I think this is going to be the one that sticks for him.

CenterPoint repair guy actually had the part required to make our dishwasher mostly functional again. Amazing.

Thursday, I made it to Electra's graduating senior art reception, admired the art (hers was sealife-themed), and took lots of pictures that I now need to edit and watermark. Then we went to the Riverview Cafe and chatted over yummy brownies.

Friday, I went to my old friend Jason's birthday party, tasted kava for the first time, and saw it prepared ... burlesque-style. More pictures were taken. The stuff looks like off-colored, watery milk, smells like dirt with an acrid undertone, and tastes like nothing much although the aftertaste is pretty awful. The first effect is a tingling tongue. The effect it had on me seemed to be a sharpening and clarity of sight and sensation. No idea if that's how most people feel, as I had to leave then. Silly buses and their schedules.

Saturday, I was peopled out. Morning, went to the gym. Took a weightlifting/body pump group class. Afternoon, went to coffee shop, plotted/adjusted the plot for the rest of the side project (Dragon Succubus), and wrote some. Spent the night fighting with trying to figure out watermarks and custom brushes and why it wasn't working damn it. Figured it out, eventually, but still need to manage batch watermarks for things I don't edit before uploading (like May Day photos).

Today is Mother's Day. I slept in a lot. Made myself French toast. Left to go to a coffee shop until dinner, which is where I currently am. Cassius being in two preschool classes meant I got two Mother's Day presents from him! I got a shiny bead-and-button bracelet that has a whole lot of gold buttons and some red and green flower beads, and a bar of soap that he felted with sheep's wool during their field trip to Gale Woods (which he loved--he says he likes spinach now).

Oh, and also the car died in the middle of the highway and Phil had to get it fixed. So that happened.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Two big changes and one irritating mistake. Okay, the changes aren't THAT big. Practically speaking, they're quite small on a lifetime scale. But big on a weekly scale!

The biggest thing in my life lately has been my inability to shower or bathe at home. Our shower went from decrepit but sorta functional to entirely non-functional. It no longer has hot water, and using the shower is also bad because the walls aren't as waterproof as you would want shower walls to be. We figured this out when Phil looked up at the ceiling of the kitchen and saw that there was water damage. :(

My solution for this has been to take advantage of all the gym trials available that include childcare (and one that didn't, even though its website said it did). This way, I can take the kids, get a workout, write for a bit while the kids stay in childcare, and then wash my hair (the big problem with normal bucket-bath solutions) and the children. It's been fun. I don't have disposable income on a monthly basis, so I won't be able to permanently join a gym-with-childcare and do the short workout, longer writing game plan that some other writer parents and members of gyms-with-childcare have. Sadface. But I've learned that I like group classes and weight machines, and I really like being able to work out again.

Monday the plumber comes and starts the process of retiling the shower alcove, replacing the fixtures, and installing a new toilet while he's at it. I'm very happy about this. I'm just sad that we didn't have the budget to have them also tear up the wood floor and put in tile while we're at it. Alas. Wood floors look great and wear well in many rooms, but bathrooms aren't one of them.

Other things that happened this week(ish), briefly:
1. Tried writing with The Most Dangerous Writing App (change #2), liked it, and beat my weekly word quota for the first time in a long time;
2. Went to preschool auction, got one month's gym membership cheap(!), and collected lots of compliments on my candid portraits of the kids;
3. And, finally, messed up communicating with Cassius' school bus about me taking him to school instead (after gym time in Uptown), leading to confusion all around and a cranky school bus chaperon. Oops.
4. Wait, that's not the end after all! Last Sunday, the children became miserably sick, complete with 105 degree fevers (Cassius) and vomiting (Theia). That was no good. The combination of vomit and nonfunctional shower was particularly unfortunate. I forgot about that earlier, even though the kids are still coughing and congested. They're no longer feverish and they seem to be back to normal energy levels, though, so no more sick days watching videos for them!
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This is what the numbers look like after a few years of writing and occasionally getting things published.

Important dates and numbers

First publication: 2003
First pro publication: 2009
First super-pro publication: 2014
First child born: 8/2011
Second child born: 11/2013

(And yes, the dates my children were born absolutely matter to the chronology and amount of things have been written and published!)



Publications by year (includes reprint sales and micro-fiction)

2003: 2
2004-2005: 0
2006: 1
2007-2008: 0
2009: 3
2010: 3
2011: 1
2012: 7
2013: 2
2014: 4
2015 (to date): 2
2016 (sold to date): 1

Current status of sales and stories (does not include micro-fiction)

2 short stories accepted, publication pending (one of these is really old and will probably never happen, but it's a non-exclusive reprint sale, so ::shrug::).
1 recently published short story, still in the exclusive post-pub period.
11 trunked short stories/nonfiction articles, some of which were never published, some of which were published but which I think aren't worth the hassle of trying to get reprinted.
1 trunked novel.
1 novel to edit that is halfway trunked.
1 independently published serial novel.
10 short stories to edit.
21 short stories/nonfiction to submit as reprints, previously published.
1 short story in the long-tail afterlife.
6 short stories currently out for submissions.
1 short story to finish (not currently working on).
2 novels to finish (not currently working on).
2 novels to finish (writing RIGHT NOW).*

Actual published stories can be found here: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/biblio.html

*
Not exactly what the half-dragon, half-succubus in the fluffy urban fantasy I'm writing actually looks like, but quite representative of what you find if you try googling such things. Also, a surprisingly large number of such illustrations resemble Angelina Jolie. Just sayin'.
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The last two weeks have been kind of rough for me, because Phil hasn't been able to provide much parenting assistance. First he was gone on business for a week, and then he got a rather horrible case of The Sick that has pretty much knocked out his ability to contribute at home. Despite this, it's been an interesting couple of weeks with lots of new experiences.

Read more... )
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I went to the AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conference and all I got was a tote bag, a bunch of useful writing knowledge, a whole bunch of candy, and that weird lobster sperm metaphor! This post is about my overall conference experience; my panel notes can be found here: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/1139367.html.

Let me explain. The AWP is a BHD (Big Hairy Deal) literary conference that happened to be happening in Minneapolis this year, and they happened to have a special $40 day pass deal for Saturday. So I went. Okay, there was a lot more waffling because, "But it's literary fiction, not genre! And I won't know hardly anybody, or how to talk to anybody! And I'm not prepared!" Phil listened for a bit, and then he must have decided that this was one of those "insecurities are preventing wife from doing useful thing" moments. Pressure was applied. So I went!

First, for my genre-writing peeps, fear not! Although AWP is a conference primarily for literary fiction writers and academics, genre writers were not shunned. The only times that science fiction / fantasy / horror writing was mentioned in my hearing, it was in a positive light. Short stories have horror DNA in their bones, time and structure is often explored well in SF, etc. The most popular panel I saw (and sadly was not able to attend because even the standing room was taken) was about fairy tales. When I mentioned to a couple of other people that I was a genre writer, I got a good reaction. YMMV, but it went well for me.

Read more... )
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Fifteen minutes to describe what's been going on in my life since my last journal entry of 11/9/2014, more than three months ago.


Is too much. I will sum up.


Phil had his first work trip to California of the year, so I had a week of single-parenting it. Mostly everything went okay. On the last day of his trip, I even managed to wrangle two small children onto the bus to the Midtown Global Market DMV to renew my instructional driver's permit! It was an epic trip. First the DMV (and I highly, highly recommend this location--5 PM on a Friday afternoon and the wait was only about 10 minutes!). Then we watched adorable kids doing traditional Chinese dancing, including the Lion Dance, to celebrate the Chinese New Year in MGM's main area. Cassius got to "feed the lion" by holding out a red envelope with a dollar in it. He liked this idea a lot. Holy Land for a dinner that was only a moderate success, since I ordered poorly and spent too much for food that the kids didn't eat (the leftovers were delicious, though, and Holy Land's fries have officially replaced those of McDonald's in my affections, something I thought would never happen). After a half-hour in the extremely popular play area, I hauled the kids out under protest. We swung by Chicago-Lake Liquor (since I had a valid ID again) and back to the bus stop, where there were a variety of future Jerry Springer contestants waiting for the bus. Fortunately it was all talk and I didn't have to explain anything to Phil about why our offspring were traumatized.


I finished the-story-that-took-forever-to-finish! I got through all the finicky changes and details and whatnot for A Circus of Brass and Bone. So pleased that I got that wrapped. There are still three tiny typos that I have to wait for a long enough sales lull to fix. I'm not sure if it'll pick up any momentum beyond the initial friends-and-family sales, but I don't have a marketing budget to throw at it, so I'll just have to wait and see. I'm taking one day every week to work on PR stuff. It is like pulling teeth to get reviews, though, even (especially!) customer reviews on Amazon etc. Gah. The marketing hat is uncomfortable on my head, but I'm doing my due diligence. I owe it to the story. I feel like there are a lot of people who would get something good out of the story, but who will never even know it exists. Sadface.


Um. My journaling time is up, but other stuff happened too! Working on getting Cassius into preschool, working on getting Cassius potty-trained (related), readjusting to having any free time, horrified by the state of my house, intimidated by the state of my short story editing backlog, looking forward to the next project but wanting a clearer deck before I start it but also wanting to get to it before I lose my enthusiasm, and a whole bunch of developmental advances by Theia, who is now getting the hang of walking and talking and acting almost like a toddler instead of a baby! Sniff.

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A Circus of Brass and Bone's special book blog event starts now at Coffee Time Romance! Enter the giveaway to WIN a steampunk accessory!

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Writing Goals for the Next 3 Months (started writing this 8/31/2014, came back over a month later to actually do it . . . le sigh.)

So it seems that planning on writing goals every 3 months means that they'll actually get done about every 4 (or even more) months, going by my current sample size of two. But I'm still setting my reminders for every 3 months. If I changed my reminders to every 4 months, I expect I'd start actually getting this done every 5. Heh. I s'pose I could change reminders to every 2 months, but what if I started actually doing it on schedule? Every 2 months is too often.

Touching base with my yearly writing goals:

Um, I appear not to have made any. Not surprising, considering that I had a one-month-old baby at the time. Should be easy, since these three months will cover that, right? Right? Buehler?

So. What would my yearly writing goal be? Aha! To finish serializing Circus of Brass and Bone, publish it, clear away the backlog of to-edit manuscripts, and get started on finishing the Tree of Life (horrible and unrepresentative working title, must fix) science fiction novel that I'm--some--into. ::scurries away to check:: Wait, I'm only 21,000 words into it? That's like it's just a novella. I could write--something else! Or that. Hrm. So the goal there would be to decide what novel to write next, and to outline/re-outline it. And let's say to write a couple of new short stories in there in between, because it's good to have new short stories. Oh, and to finish transcribing and finishing the various things from my various notebooks! Yeah, that too.

In conclusion, my goal for the next three months/rest of the year is

. . . finish Circus of Brass and Bone.

Whenever I'm asked/inspired/invited to do something, I need to check it against that. Yeah. And at this point, given the Halloween relaunch date and my desire to do an every-week podcast to finish this up by Christmas, that means I need to

. . . only spend writing time working on Circus of Brass and Bone.

Not writing three-month goal statements. Not doing markets. Not doing critiques. Probably not attending general attendance writing meetings. Not doing the weekly diary entry. Not researching preschools. Not paying bills.

Nope. Those things that can be, need to be done during the children's waking hours. Those things that can't be, are probably going to have to wait until 2015.

. . . I'm going to have to figure out other ways shoehorn computer time into the children's waking hours. That's not easy. Maybe not even possible. Hrm.


nightmares_fear_factory_fearpic_top10_30_6


Nope, nothing to be scared of here.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The last couple of weeks have been very busy with All The Things, especially last week. In my writing log, I wrote down the following:

Recorded "Breath Stirs In the Husk" for Pseudopod
Recorded “Drowning in Sky” for PodCastle
Did audio editing on PodCastle and Pseudopod readings and sent them off
Writer’s networking tea at Patisserie 46
MinnSpec writers group in Uptown
Updated market spreadsheet, wrote newsletter, and mailed it off
Researched self-pub cover art necessities
Wrote cover art contract
Met with cover artist
Processed “Diplomatic Relations” acceptance
Processed “Charity From a Thief” rejection
Processed writing expenses

In addition to this, we !!finally!! took care of the second mortgage balloon payment, a financial burden that has been becoming increasingly worrisome over the course of the last six months as we went back and forth with our mortgage banker about how we could refinance it. The short answer is that we couldn't, but he was too inexperienced to know that and too incompetent to find that out in a reasonable time-frame or even to return our phone calls EVER. Of course, back when we bought our house, we were assured that we could simply extend the term of our second mortgage without any problems. Now, that program has long since been discontinued. He eventually offered us a personal loan, but that has terms similar to a credit card, so, um, no. Instead we took out a loan against Phil's 401K. Not ideal, but at least we're paying the interest to ourselves. It also means that our 2nd mortgage will be paid off in 5 years instead of 10+ . . . because our monthly payment is going to be a couple of hundred dollars higher. Ouch. But still. Done! One thing to cross off the Worry List.

Speaking of the Worry List, Phil finally put lead encapsulation paint on the back staircase, which is a huge relief to me. Whew. Still not done fixing all the less-urgent lead stuff, but we're getting there.

So, lots of stress (and stress relief) this week, and lots of me trying to scrape out time to get things done. Not helping is that Theia has been waking up lots in the night again. Maybe teething? She's also been batting at her ears when she's sleepy, which makes me worry about ear infections, but Phil thinks it's because sometimes there's referred pain from teething. Basically, we don't know. It is worrisome. Also does not help with the exhaustion and having lots of stuff to get done.

Now that the mortgage's handled, our next big family project is figuring out preschool. Minneapolis folks, does anyone have recommendations or dis-recommendations for preschools in the Uptown/Downtown/S. Mpls area? We're hardly going to buy a second car just to ferry the small one to preschool, so it needs to be busable for us.

Sigh. Here's a picture of a water lily, for serenity.


2014_09_07_1505


P.S. Oh, and I bollixed up my left knee badly enough that it's been hurting constantly for the last few days. I'll try taking it easy for a week and see if it gets better on its own. If it's still this bad in two weeks, a doctor visit is probably in order, and who knows what else. I do not need this.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
This week: a long weekend; Theia's 9-month check-up; a writer's group meeting that critted "You May Also Like Gas Masks" (needs a couple of fixes but shows promise) and "Look Back to Keep Her" (trunk it); ridiculous amounts of dirty dishes; restructuring the ending of Circus of Brass and Bone (in progress) at Five Watt Coffee; baby's first Renfest; weird genetic syndromes; and Odyssey publishing "Reconnect" in their September issue.

Yay long weekends! Although in this case, Phil had kind of a weirdly timed long weekend. Because he was working 12+-hour days to run experiments during third shift, he didn't go in to work on Friday but he did sleep very late indeed so that half the day was lost anyway. And on Monday (Labor Day), he had to go back in to work from dinnertime to elevenish because they needed his help.

At least this meant that he didn't actually take any official time off for Theia's 9-month check-up, simply because he was putting in plenty of hours at other times. So yes. Theia's 9-month check-up! She is doing well. This was the first visit with Dr. S after her previous pediatrician switched over to hospital duty. Theia is 2'6.5" tall (99th percentile) and weighs 19 lb. 6 oz (70th percentile), for a BMI in the . . .7th percentile. But as long as her BMI is above the 5th percentile, I'm happy! No shots or blood draws this time, either.

2014_08_02_1193

Dr. S noted her flexibility, added that to Cassius' and my flexibility and easy bruising, and came up wondering about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ehlers-danlos-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20033656). In short, hyper-flexibility, easy bruising, easy scarring, and some variations come with the possibility of sudden rupture of blood vessels, including ones in important organs. Kind of scary, but after talking with the rest of my family, I doubt that we have it, and if we do, I'm pretty sure it's one of the less-lethal varieties. Flexibility runs in the family. My first cousin could put one foot pointed straight in front of her and one foot pointed straight behind her at the same time, which is creepy, and she was considered for both Ehlers-Danlos and Marfan, but both were ruled out.

2014_08_30_1382

On Saturday, we went to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for the first time time in many years. Special thanks to Gaea for the tickets (at least in theory)! It was Cassius and Theia's first time, although Theia isn't really old enough to participate! Going with kids is a very different experience. Used to be, I would go with a group of friends, drink mead, eat food on a stick or in a breadbowl, and watch the comedy performances. This time I actually took Cassius to see the special attractions that I'd never bothered with before--Mermaid Cove and Fairy Forest--watched a juggling performance, made a fairy wand for him in the kids' crafts section (lost before we even got to the car, much to his upset), and did the punch-card scavenger hunt that won him a dragon pendant at the end of the visit. We went into three stores at the very beginning of our visit and then no more after that. Casualties of the visit were Cassius' venerable straw hat, his fairy wand, and one of our tires. Getting a flat tire at the end did put rather a damper on the visit, and it meant that we spent the rest of the weekend at home.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
We weren't sure if we would be able to drive home from my family reunion in Michigan in one day, but we were! Theia slept miraculous amounts. This is very good, since it meant Phil was able to sleep in his own bed for one night before he had to turn around and catch a plane to San Diego for work. Which he did. He got home around 1 AM Friday night/Saturday morning. So I've been single-parenting it this week.
Despite this, I did manage to get out of the house a little. I took the kids to Wee Wednesday at the Midtown Global Market. It happened to be the Como Zoo week, so there was a very excellent storyteller there, and she performed a kids story, supervised a craft, and then brought out the (not poisonous) poison dart frogs, the (no, really, not poisonous) snake, and the (it might bite your finger off) parrot. I also learned that the Produce Exchange there has all the non-dairy substitutes. This is good to know.

That evening, I arranged a little babysitting from my sadly neglected church "parenting partner" and bused out to the U of M to see a Fringe show. So I achieved my "collect Fringe button" goal for the year! Some year, I may actually manage to see more than 1 show. I do not think this will be that year. I saw "Jumpin' Jack Kerouac," a show with a choreographer reading essay answers from writers, and writers dancing to the choreographer's music. It hit the level of "professionally awesome" only a couple of times; mostly it was sweet and occasionally funny, and much less about writing than you might expect.

In the bad news division, we learned that no, the bank won't refinance or otherwise do a home loan for us to deal with the balloon payment due on our second mortgage this fall. Used to be, they just extended the terms. Now, since they don't do that kind of loan anymore, they don't. Yes, it took us five months to get that answer, due to the blatant inexperience and disorganization of the banker we dealt with. Yes, I have a much longer rant about that that I am not going into. Financially, this is going to suck a lot. We are probably going to have to take out a loan against our 401K to pay this. The bank does have a personal loan option, but the percentage charged would be very high and painful and adjustable. So no thank you.

Also got a response from one of the new super-pro magazines saying that my story was shortlisted . . . but they're having funding issues and don't know if/when they will proceed with the publication launch. I could really use those couple thousand dollars about now. Le sigh. Ah, well, I'll wait a few months to see what happens next.

In more entertaining news, Theia has learned to clap her hands. So adorable! And she is taking very well to oatmeal cereal mixed with mother's milk. Blended steak, on the other hand, she thinks is yucky. And she makes whiskey face every time she gets apple or pear. Which is also entertaining, if not so useful in getting her full of food.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Market List Logo
http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html

The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 8/15/2014.
Permanent link to this newsletter in the archives: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2014.html#071514
(The markets list got updated 7/15, but this newsletter is going out a little late.)

Editor's Note
Many writers talk about refilling a well of creativity. This metaphor works because wells gradually refill themselves, but they may need some non-productive time to do so. I also like to think of a battery of creativity. Certain activities help recharge the battery, but you've got to figure out what "charger" works with your battery. Some work for you and not for most other people. Some work for other people but not for you. Some charge fast. Some charge slow. Some only charge the battery for your experimental unicorn-Cthulhu horror story (and if you're looking for a great example of that nth-sub-genre, see http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid).
A combination of the well and the battery may be needed after finishing a project or hitting some other milestone. I tend to need a little downtime (the well), and I'm still figuring out what works best to charge my batteries these days. Unfortunately, figuring that out is a bit trial-and-error. Going new places, reading new non-fiction, looking at new art, taking a trial class for a new skill: these all seem like good things to try.
(Do not try to combine wells and charging batteries in real life. Bad things may result. In general, it is wise to avoid imitating mixed metaphors in real life.)
What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:
Being sick with new illnesses! I do not recommend this as a way to charge the battery.

- Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Things Shiny or Useful
Archive of all shiny or useful links: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/shiny.html
 

* Do Not Take Writing Advice From the Worst Muse [humor]: http://io9.com/do-not-take-writing-advice-from-the-worst-muse-1603438929
* Rights Reversion [writing business]:  http://kriswrites.com/2012/10/24/the-business-rusch-rights-reversion/

* Exploring the Romance Genre [writing business]: http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1393720.html


Featured Market
Inscription is a pro-paying F/SF magazine for teens.

We’re looking for stories with strong writing and memorable characters. There must be a clear genre element, science fiction or fantasy, so no non-genre fiction, please. But while genre is key, we consider characters and story to be even more important. Humor is welcome, but the point of your story shouldn’t just be a punch line at the end.

While we hope readers of all ages will enjoy this magazine, we do primarily publish fiction for teens. It is always difficult to draw a definite line around what makes a story young adult, but here are some rough guidelines if you’re deciding whether your story is a good fit for our magazine – you can also read some of the fiction already posted on our site.

The basics: F/SF for teens, 500 - 9,000 words, reprints okay, pays $.06/word. Guidelines at http://www.inscriptionmagazine.com/submissions/

Market List Updates
To see all the details about these new listings and what they're looking for, as well as hundreds of other listings, go to Aswiebe's Market List and download the latest version of the spreadsheet.
Name What they want Pay Per Word – Fiction Flat Pay – Fiction (Lowest) Website
Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) [ONE-TIME electronic submissions 8/1/2014 - 8/15/2014, 1/1/2015 - 1/15/2015 - see http://ccfinlay.com/blog/editing-two-more-issues-of.html] F/SF/H $0.0700
http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/glines.htm
The Lost Worlds (Eldritch Press) ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 12/30/2014 Steampunk horror $0.0600
http://www.eldritchpress.com/anthology-calls.html
Inscription F/SF for teens $0.0600
http://www.inscriptionmagazine.com/submissions/
Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers All genres $0.0500
http://pithypages.com/submissions.html
Nameless Magazine Dark SF/F, weird, thought-provoking, no sword & sorcery $0.0500
http://namelessmag.jasunni.com/info/submission-guidelines/
Spellbound Children's fantasy, for 8-12 yrs, themed $0.0250
http://spellboundzine.com/guidelines-spellbound-middle-grade-fantasy-magazine/
NonBinary Review All genres, themed $0.0100
https://nonbinaryreview.submittable.com/submit
Year's Best Weird Fiction ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY Previously published (that year) weird fiction $0.0100
https://bestweirdfiction.submittable.com/submit
All That's Left of Yesterday ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 7/1/2014 - 7/31/2014 Apocalyptic, no zombies $0.0100
http://www.betenoiremagazine.com/anthologyguidelines.htm
Panverse Four ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 9/30/2014 OR EARLIER IF FILLED SF, science fantasy, and alternate history novellas
$200.00 http://www.panversepublishing.com/panverse-four.html
Wee Tales (Golden Fleece Press) Kids stories for little ones
$50.00 http://goldenfleecepress.com/submissions/
Refractions (Golden Fleece Press) Stories for teens
$50.00 http://goldenfleecepress.com/submissions/
More Dia de los Muertos Stories ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 8/15/2014 (deadline extended) or when filled Fantasy and horror themed to Dia de los Muertos
$30.00 http://www.elektrikmilkbathpress.com/submissions
Strange Constellations Spec-fic
$30.00 http://www.strangeconstellations.com/?page_id=8
Golden Age ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 9/30/2014 Golden Age-esque SF
$20.00 http://www.longcountpress.com/
Beyond the Nightlight ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 10/13/2014 Childhood-themed horror
$15.00 http://www.amurderofstorytellers.com/submissions/
Despumation All genres, heavy metal-inspired
$10.00 http://despumationpress.com/submissions/
Enchanted Conversation, The MONTHLY CONTEST - DEAD MARKET (contests no longer regularly scheduled) Fairytale-inspired
$25.00 http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/
Fog Horn, The DEAD MARKET (INDEFINITE HIATUS) All genres
$1,000.00 http://thefoghornmagazine.com/submit/


Aswiebe's Market List
* Aswiebe's Market List is a searchable, sortable spreadsheet of paying fantasy, science fiction, and horror markets. This way it's easy to find, for example, only horror markets that accept reprints greater than 10,000 words. For more information on what it is and how to use it, see About Aswiebe.com's Market Spreadsheet.
* If you find it useful, please consider donating via PayPal to help support it.
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* Feel free to forward this email on to people you think might find it useful. If you're so moved, go ahead and link to Aswiebe's Market List on your blog or webpage.
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* You can also get market list updates through social media by following my RSS feed, Livejournal, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ account.

Links
Aswiebe's Market List
About Aswiebe's Market List
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's main website
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's blog

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Compiler of Lists

Feel free to share this newsletter with others by whatever means you like, as long as you include all of it. If you want to subscribe to this email newsletter, go here. To unsubscribe, simply reply to this email with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
I had a week, I know I did!

I pretty much recovered from the bout of parapertussis this week (thank you, antibiotics!), and so I was actually able to be a bit productive, and also to socialize a bit. Still more tired than usual. I can tell my body was/is still working to clear out the last bits of bacterial crud.

Immediately before I got sick, I finished my Short Story of Unusual Size. Normally, I try to take a couple of days off after finishing a project, partly to refill the creativity well and partly to give a lick and a promise to all the other writing-related tasks that I tend to fall behind on. The sick ate my recharge time, so I took a couple of days on the other end of it. Most of that, I spent writing updates on things that I wanted to get down--con reports, child at age X months, etc.

Then I got to restart Circus of Brass and Bone AKA the Way Overdue Project! Or at least to finish up my re-read (with minor revisions), figure out what needed to get wrapped up, and plot the grand finale. That was difficult, after so much time away from the project. As I commented over on Facebook, I had a plan for how to do that, but my plan was, "Make a plan." Not so useful! A couple of months ago, Pat helped me to realize that what I thought was the climax wasn't the actual focus of the plot arc and so should be a quiet postlude instead of the big finale, but it took post-its filled with threats to hash out what would actually work well. Not threats to me, but all the perils and threats pointed at different characters. I rearranged the post-its, added solutions or results, and I finally got a conclusion that I was happy with. Next up: writing the damn thing.

[ . . . And coming back to this post and trying to write it while sitting outside and letting Cassius play in our back yard and pick ALL the raspberries. He still needs interaction, though, so this may be a little scattered.]

2014_06_12_0052

Life at home has become more exciting because Theia's made a big developmental leap from "wiggling a bit on her tummy" to "crawling across rooms in 30 seconds flat." Keeping her safe just became a lot harder, and keeping the floors and other low surfaces clean and child-proofed just became a lot more important. Having an almost-three-year-old who likes to carry around his choking hazard toys and deposit them wherever makes this more challenging. It is really cute watching her chase balls across the room, though. Or cats. Or Cassius (especially when he's also army-crawling so that they can play "Snakey"). Now that she's moving around a lot, I can tell that she's also losing weight. She's becoming a skinny baby, just like her big brother. Sigh. She's also lost patience with most of the baby-containment devices, which makes doing anything else around the house more challenging.

I saw Chef, now playing at the Lagoon, on my monthly movie date with E. Five stars! Cleverly written, populated by an amazing cast, extremely funny, truly heart-warming, and filled with delicious foodie moments. My only complaint is that the wrap-up had maybe a touch too much childhood-wish-fulfillment, in a way that might be a sore spot for kids who have that wish but won't get it fulfilled. Regardless, highly, highly recommended, especially if you need something to cheer you up. For bonus points, plan on going out for dinner at a place with good tortas afterward.

Other things, in summary: vegan waffles yay!, breakfast with C., yay!; Phil working way too many hours, boo!; all the raspberries, holy cow!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Thanks to Todd Wardrope (http://toddwardrope.blogspot.com/) for including me in this tour. As T.A. Wardrope, he writes horror and dark fantasy, occasionally drifting into science-fiction of the Philip K Dick or J.G. Ballard variety. He lives in Minneapolis, MN and works as a video producer. He is also an independent filmmaker in his spare time.

0) Who am I?
For people just reading this for the first time, I'm Abra Staffin-Wiebe. I grew up in Africa, India...and Kansas. Then I married a mad scientist and moved to Minneapolis, where I fold time and space to be a full-time fiction writer, part-time freelance photographer, part-time work-from-home employee, and full-time mother. My next project is learning to fold time and space to make this all physically possible! I've had short stories accepted by publications including Jim Baen's Universe and Tor.com. I specialize in dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and modern fairy tales.

1) What am I working on?

I just finished "You May Also Like Gas Masks," an unusually long short story about Big Brother and the search for love. So I'm taking a couple of days off to let my creative well recharge a bit, and then I've got to get to work on the final act of Circus of Brass and Bone, my post-apocalyptic steampunk serial about a circus traveling through the collapse of civilization (here: http://www.circusofbrassandbone.com/).

Circus of Brass and Bone is a project that I've been fretting over resuming for a while. I had to take an unplanned long hiatus from writing it, because of health and family troubles. When I went back to writing, I thought I'd finish it before I resumed posting episodes . . . and I promptly proceeded to write and write and write until I realized that I was actually well into book 2, and that I should have written the ending of the serial about 50,000 words ago. Except I hadn't written it as a proper ending, so I've rather been wrestling with how to go back and fix that, in a way that will be a good resolution to the serial, without messing up any of what I wrote later. My goal is to wrap this up by the end of July so that I can post the last episodes and get a limited print/ebook edition out.

Oh, and my "notebook story" right now is a science fiction murder mystery. I always keep a short story going in my notebook, writing longhand. Usually, I write a sentence or two on it a day. It's also my waiting-in-line, riding-the-bus, sitting-in-a-lecture story.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I wish I could answer this better, but I feel like the answer is always changing. The way I look at the world is usually a little bit askew from how other people see it, which helps. I have a dry, wry sense of humor that sometimes sneaks into my writing when it's least expected. And my writing often has a gruesome edge that seems to come naturally for me.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Why do I write? Because I'm good at it and it's very satisfying to create something. Also, otherwise my brain uses those creativity cycles to fuel paranoia and spin random, non-useful imaginary conversations. Writing is a safety valve that bleeds off the pressure.
Why my particular blend of SF/F, horror, and mystery? It's what I like to read. New worlds and strange technologies really appeal to me. I love it when I read about some new scientific discovery or technology or piece of history that makes me think, "If that exists, and this happens, then it might lead to this other thing, which would be really awesome. Or terrible. What happens if I put interesting people in that scenario?"

4) How does your writing process work?

I do two minutes of freewriting every day, and that's where most of my story seeds come from. Sometimes I use an interesting photo from Flickr, a random word, or a buried Google result as the start for my freewriting. I tag these ideas in various ways, including by what I think their potential is.
When I'm ready for my next writing project, I look at pro-paying anthologies and then at similarly tagged story ideas to see if anything grabs me. If not, I look at my highest rated story ideas and go for what starts unrolling in my head as I read it--or, if nothing clicks like that, what seems most unique.
I do a spiderweb plot brainstorm in my writing notebook and then write out a one-page plot outline while I still remember what all the arrows and words mean. For short stories, I expand this into a rough scene outline.
Then I write! I write mostly in the afternoons during my kids' naptime, with a little squeezed in sometimes first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Sometimes I'll go to a coffee shop on the weekend. If I'm home, I type on my desktop computer or my laptop. If I'm away, I'm on my laptop. I stop and do a more detailed scene outline before I start each scene. Occasionally, I'll write a piece out of order if that's what my brain starts whispering to me about, but usually it's in order and outlined. And of course, I have my notebook story, which is a whole 'nother thing.
First I read the finished story quickly and cut out obvious bad spots. Then I send my story out for critiques and get as many as I can. I print the story out, clip it to my clipboard, and edit by hand with a red pen (or purple, or green, etc.). Editing is tricky. I have trouble justifying making time to edit and polish my stories when clearly, I should be spending that time *actually writing*! Once I've finished making the edits, I read it out loud to smooth out any rough bumps or accidentally introduced errors. I add the story to my spreadsheets, figure out what I want to grade it as, and start on a list of places to submit it to. Then I send it out and try to forget about it until it collects so many rejections that I have to take another look at it and see if it's fixable. Usually, somebody buys it before then!



Up Next: Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli

Gaea's Bio:
Gaea writes fiction, makes puppets, takes pictures, and stilts. After graduating with a degree in linguistics and creative writing, Gaea worked with Habitat for Humanity first building houses and then spent some time in the office (she enjoyed the former much more than the latter). After her time there, she worked on an ambulance doing medical transport. Most recently, she worked in the Peace Corps as a Community Health volunteer in the village of Vansemakul, Central Pentecost.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
As I am writing this, it's very weird to realize that today is only Friday. 4th of July, yes, but Friday! I've been existing in the weirdly timeless dimension of sick for the last week. Phil has been home for much of it, which hasn't helped (with the disorientation--it's helped a *lot* with keeping the household running!). Last week, both kids got sick with congestion, coughing, and fevers. Last week Friday, I started to feel sick. Over the weekend, I got all the congestion, coughing, and fever. I was so wobbly and lightheaded that I put Phil in charge of carrying the baby up and down the stairs and even--when I felt particularly bad--of moving her from the playmat to my arms to nurse.

Theia's church dedication was on Sunday, so Phil took her to church and I stayed home sick with Cassius. This was probably a very good thing, as it turned out, since Cassius and I were the most sick and probably most contagious at this point. She looked adorable in her little satiny white dress with red flowers; that's all I know.

My fever went away on Monday, but Phil still stayed home to help and because I'd made a doctor's appointment for Cassius. You see, even before this latest bout of sickness, he had a minor but persistent cough that wouldn't go away. He'd had it for three weeks, which seemed a bit long. We talked to the nurse practitioner. They took swabs for various tests. They used the water pic to clean earwax out of his ears so they could make sure he didn't have an ear infection (since he'd complained of ear pain the previous day). She said that perhaps he had seasonal allergies, we should try medication for that and see if it cleared things up.

Tuesday, Phil went back to work. I managed okay with the kids, but I was exhausted and so slept as long as the kids did during naptime, which was a really long time that day (we were all sick). That's how I came to miss the nurse practitioner's urgent attempt to call me with Cassius' test results. He tested positive for parapertussis, which is like whooping cough junior. It's less likely to kill you or cause severe complications. It's also not vaccinated against (see: less likely to kill you). So I called the triage nurse on the night shift, and she referred me to the doctor on call, and the doctor sent in a prescription for antibiotics for both kids and told me to get the adults in the family to a doctor so that we could get treated too. So that's what we did the next day.

We are all highly contagious until we've taken five days of antibiotics. So certain things had to happen--or not happen. Phil called in sick to work through next Monday. We're avoiding social events. We had to cancel our annual 4th of July party for the first time in, um, well, since before we were married. Phil was very sad. I'm pretty glad that I wasn't planning on going to CONvergence, anyway. Parapertussis would be a nasty addition to the con-crud mix that usually brews at these large events.

So instead of a 4th of July party, we had a back yard picnic (Cassius corrected Phil when he called it a party). Just family, hanging out in the back yard for most of the day. Everybody came indoors for naptime, though. Cassius ran around in his red-and-blue plaid shorts and his caped Superman shirt, eating all the raspberries, swinging in the hammock, and generally having a great time. Phil grilled and posted links and analysis of his favorite heavy metal music of the year (his "ponies"). Theia crawled off the blanket we put her on a lot and generally required a whole lot of attention, but she appeared to be enjoying herself just fine. I ate and lounged in the hammock with Theia and watched House on my tablet and generally was kept rather busy by my offspring.

On top of all this, in a feat of rare and remarkable clumsiness, I managed to trip over a stool and fall in such a way as to sprain my ankle and bruise my knees badly, right on top of the scar tissue from my knee surgeries. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. Moving my ankle hurts. Going up and down stairs hurts. I am extra sad that I can't take ibuprofen because all the brands have lactose and Theia's allergic to it.

Other (better!) things have happened since my last diary update, too.
* I had a 4th Street (Fantasy Convention), about which there will be another few posts.
* I finished a short story that became unusually long! "You May Also Like Gas Masks" is over 12,000 words. Yikes.
* I finally figured out the part that makes my next notebook story work. Turns out the problem wasn't the mystery or the A.I. part, it was that I needed to figure out the character's spine: grief.
* I emailed a pro-paying magazine editor to ask for a different, less rights-grabby contract--and got it. Like a pro, oh yeah.
* Cassius is having nightmares on a regular basis. I feel so bad for him. He's also become very focused on figuring out when things (people, monsters, cars, etc.) are "bad."
* Theia has mastered an army crawl that gets her across the room in much less time than you might think.
* Phil has finished selecting what he thinks is the best music of the year for a Ponies disc . . . or two.
* I've been experimenting with an easy, delicious microwave (vegan!) fudge recipe. I am happy to continue experiments, I just need an unlimited supply of coconut cream, cocoa, and powdered sugar.

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