Jul. 14th, 2014

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)
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!

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Abra Staffin-Wiebe

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