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.]

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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.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Miscellaneous notes about things that I found interesting/useful from the "Syncretism, Real and Fantastic," "Journey's End," and "But That's a Different Panel: Swearing" panels at the 4th St Fantasy convention. Also a few thoughts inspired by them.


SYNCRETISM, REAL AND FANTASTIC


Beware the "science and magic both exist and have to fight" trope.

Schisms within religious faiths are a good thing to remember when writing religion.

Don't make good guys all Religion A and bad guys all Religion B, especially if there is also a racial/cultural divide.

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JOURNEY'S END

Historical note: mass production / industrialization was brought back from visiting China.

At the end of the journey, one character arc conclusion is the main character's transformation or failure to transform. Decide this consciously.

Don't forget, people also bring back unfortunate things, intentionally or not. Invasive species, disease, etc.

Ponder the immigrant experience, and also what aspects of it a returning traveler may experience.

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BUT THAT'S A DIFFERENT PANEL
[SURPRISE TOPIC: SWEARING!]

If there's going to be swearing and you're afraid of negative reader reaction, cue the reader in on the first page by using a swearword, so that they know what to expect. Can also do this with general tone/mood.

This made me think about cultural comfort with different behaviors that switches for a person depending on what language they're speaking in. For example, my maternal grandfather could be very earthy while speaking Plattdeutsch, but he would never dream of saying such things in English.

Fantastic Profanity [N.K. Jemisin on the cultural context of swearwords]: http://nkjemisin.com/2012/11/fantastic-profanity/

All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Miscellaneous notes about things that I found interesting/useful from the "Narrative Conventions," "Fantasy of Discovery," and "Tell, Don't Show" panels at the 4th St Fantasy convention, and perhaps a few thoughts inspired by them. Also a few unrelated 4th St photos.

NARRATIVE CONVENTIONS

If you're going to play games with narrative conventions, make sure you have something simpler to pull the reader through.

Alternative narrative structures can create a sense of strangeness, cause reader to pay more attention, or create surprise humor.

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FANTASY OF DISCOVERY

Mystery and discovery novel are not the same. Consider the nature of the antagonist.

Often man vs. nature.

Writing a fantasy of discovery may be sued to counter the stakes-escalation arms-race in sequels.

Expand scope by showing effect and ramification on the society of the disovery.

Keep in mind the character arc must change too.

Fantasy of discovery may lead to more participation for reader and a higher level of reader engagement--if you like that sort of thing.


TELL, DON'T SHOW


Tell, don't show, is much easier when writing in a conversational first person tone.

Telling may be a very effective way to avoid showing something else.

You can slow down all the details and show them
a) if the reader knows that things are heading for something bad, or
b) if you want to make the reader think something bad is coming (they will still need *some* payoff).

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All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Miscellaneous notes about things that I found interesting/useful from the "Idiom, Character, and Worldbuilding," "Building the Spear," "Short Fiction," and "Heroine's Journey" panels at the 4th St Fantasy convention, and perhaps a few thoughts inspired by them (and I can't remember which are thoughts and which are notes!).


IDIOM, CHARACTER, AND WORLDBUILDING


Shift idiom, addressing nouns to indicate (even if the reader does not notice consciously) a language change.

Idiom is an excellent way to worldbuild and also provide class information.

Consciously using or not using a character's native idioms can show their reaction to being in another culture.

Don't make swearwords interchangeable with their English versions! Make them based on something cultural in-world.

And remember real-world meanings so you don't screw it up.

We carry the idioms of previous centuries with us, long after the originating circumstances have passed.


SHORT FICTION


For worldbuilding depth and character relationships, try using implied instead of explicit history.

BUILDING THE SPEAR
Jo Walton has described works which lean on prior events for their emotional impact as being full of "very sharp spear points on some very long spears".

Readers want moments to be bigger than they actually are. They're on your side when it comes to building emotional investment. The trick is figuring out where they're investing.

Exercise: watch High Noon, followed by Rio Bravo, which John Wayne made as an answer to High Noon--because he hated High Noon.

If the spear is emotional, or otherwise not part of the main plot, you can have the plot resolve, launch the spear--and not show it landing. It's a way to keep the reader satisfied yet still going, "Agh!"

In a series, previous books may be building toward one spearpoint, but you darn well bettwer figure out what your readers have been building toward in the current book.

Before ending, stop and think about what your subconscious has been building in when you weren't paying attention.

Jo Walton's discussion of the subject: http://papersky.livejournal.com/143157.html

HEROINE'S JOURNEY

For more originality, maybe try making it a non-gendered success (by how you build the culture) instead of breaking gender roles against the oppression of the patriarchy.

Always question automatically assigned gender for characters major and minor, i.e. not just traditional or warrior woman.

Stages: maiden, mother/weaver, matriarch/priestess, crone

Female/queer/non-white/disabled is not necessarily a choose-one-only.

Our genre is very much in favor of the underdog, which can make starting with a character in power (not one who just has it to lose it) very difficult.

Beware the female heroine who doesn't have other female friends because she's "not like other girls."

Campbell's mono-myth, "hero's journey," does not apply to *all the things*.

More female mentors are appearing in fiction now.

All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
One of the things I learned this year about sitting on panels at conventions is that preparation helps me a lot, if only psychologically. I think the 4th Street panel followed the topic of discussion most closely and most (though certainly not all) of the examples and points I'd thought of became relevant. For the CONvergence panels, this certainly wasn't the case. I'm not sure yet how much of those notes I'll be posting, since I used probably only about a quarter of them as a basis for discussion!

My first panel was Intertextuality and Originality, at 4th Street Fantasy. (It was the first panel the morning after the power went out. There was still no electricity.)
No book exists independent of the literary conversation, no matter how much its author may want it to. Elizabethan faeries are inevitably going to compared to each other, just like dark lords, destined heroes, and vampire-werewolf-mortal love triangles will. Given that very little authors can do will seem novel to experienced readers, how should they approach topics that many readers have been conditioned to read in a certain light? How can works that aim to deconstruct cliches avoid being read as "just X from Y's perspective"?
Lynne Thomas (M), Tappan King, Chris Modzelewski, Abra Staffin-Wiebe



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Dinosaur rides on a bike fueled by the bones of his enemies! Ahem. Anyway.

Examples that work:

Blood Oranges - Caitlin R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney

The author directly addresses the reader in foreword to tell them that despite being a vampire novel, this is not a romance, it is unhappy and unpleasant, and she is taking back the "language of the night."

The protagonist also directly addresses pop culture preconceptions in-story to say, "It's not like that."

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

It is very obvious from start that is a different kind of book of Cinderella retelling, simply because of the genre switch from fantasy to SF about a cyborg

The title and a few thematic elements call back to Cinderella, but it is very definitely telling its own story.

The author may have started out with an advantage because at this point, readers almost expect fairytale retellings to stretch different ways.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - Jessica Day George

This pulls similar elements together in a way not usually combined, referencing "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," "The Snow Queen," and Narnia.

Adding a lot of cultural depth and worldbuilding is a great way to go with fairy tales. It can make them feel more real and true.

Twilight - Yes, I think it works as a reinvention of the vampire genre even though I personally can't read it (I dislike the main character soooo much!).

It broke vampire cannon, but still satisfied rules because it kept all the "new" romantic urban fantasy conventions.

It also took a high school outsider narrative and combined it with a bad-boy romance, which was what a lot of the readers enjoyed most.

Ideas:

Folk stories and fairy tales have multiple elements that can shift to resonate with the times. Bring out things ignored previously that resonate NOW.

What's the unique part that really resonates with you, that makes you want to explore the story? Bring that forward.

Balance what you're putting in and what you're taking out.

Don't get more invested in telling a TYPE of story than the story you have in front of you.

Retellings can be great for constructing story structure.

Don't forget to put in initial cues to tell reader what filter they should be reading with! They don't have to be huge, but little bits to keep readers from building the wrong expectations.


...aaaand that's all, folks!

All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
These are some miscellaneous bits that I found interesting/useful from the writer's seminar portion of the 4th St Fantasy convention, and perhaps a few thoughts inspired by it.

Random word definition: sitzfleisch
1. A person's buttocks.
2. Power to endure or to persevere in an activity; staying power.
3. The ability to stay seated for long periods of time--very relevant when attending conventions!

Writing
If you hit a replot point, stop and consider what this new book is and how to go back to the beginning and make sure the reader is cued/promised appropriately.

Keep a china marker in the shower for taking notes when something occurs to you. Or a scuba-diver's note-taking materials.

Writing exercise: Turn the idea up to 11, do much more. Follow the improv model of "Yes, and?" and keep going until you've gone way too far.

Productivity
Try writing in different environments (coffee shop, etc.) to shake things up a bit, the same goes for the materials and means used to write.

When dealing with writing block induced by depression, stress, changes, etc., transitional tools can be very good--try a writing journal, freewriting, writing meditation, writing anything for a certain amount of time etc. (morning pages).

The Writing Life
Beware allowing the descriptive ("this successful writer does X") to become prescriptive ("a successful writer must do X").

Choose your own definition of success intentionally. Don't default to successful = rich.

"Never make your ax your taxi." Try not to use the same creativity energy for your day job and your avocation.


Editing
Instead of (or in addition to) a summary outline, try doing a structural outline of story, character arc, proportion of set-up, climax, denouement, etc. Can be a very useful editing tool.

Look for resonances between the beginning and the end. Does the end change the beginning? Does the middle add separately to both the beginning and the end?

Take it apart, check the pieces, and see how each piece is supported, linked, etc.

If a thing doesn't work, that doesn't mean it's wrong--the hard part is to figure out how to make it work instead of replacing it. Unless you need to replace it, of course.

Submitting
Cover letters should definitely not fill the entire page, because that is where all the editor's notes are made (if handwritten).

Try setting a goal of collecting a certain number of rejections by a certain date. Remember that just because you think it's terrible doesn't mean everyone else does. Think of collecting rejection slips as finding the range on shooting a cannon.

Random word etymology: royalty - an income the king received for loaning out the use of his land.

Marketing

To sell a thing to somebody, you need to provide both information (who wrote it, where is it, what's it called) and impetus to go to the website and get the thing. "I wrote a thing" is probably not enough for most people.

Print advertising is not worth it for first-time authors, because it mostly serves the purpose of informing people who already know you that there is a new thing.

When you have a publisher who has requested a full, it's not a bad time to query an agent and mention that (getting an agent is simpler when you have a publisher on the hook--this is like that, but easier).

Two weeks is the critical sales window that determines whether bookstores will reorder your books, etc. Run giveaways, etc. in the month before release. If serializing/podcasting, start a month or two before release date, include info on pre-order/ordering, plan wrap up several months after release date.

Filtering blog/social media into "writing stuff only" may be a mistake, since it can take away that oh-so-powerful personal connection.

All posts from 4th Street 2013: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/tag/4th%20street%20fantasy%202013
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing iffy)
This was the year that 4th Street Fantasy became the premier dark fantasy convention in the Midwest. ...That would be because all the lights went out, and power wasn't restored at the hotel for a couple (?) of days. The summer solstice storm of 2013 hit the Twin Cities area hard, leaving 500,000 households without power, uprooting trees, flooding streets, and creating sinkholes that looked like Godzilla had been stomping around Robbinsdale.

I was at dinner at Super Moon Buffet* with a group of friends from 4th Street when the heavens opened. Between the torrential downpour and the near-tornado-strength wind, it became a question of how to get to the car, and who was going to get in it, and if it was safe even to drive back. You see, half of our party had chosen to walk to the restaurant! I dashed out to the car with the driver and settled in. Driver went back. I was just wondering what the other people were delaying for (and deciding that I wasn't going anywhere unless the car started to float away) when the restaurant lost power. In the end, we were able to get everyone out safely in a couple of car trips. When we got back to the hotel, we learned that it, too, had lost power. They had some emergency lights, and that was it. I was happy that I'd just downloaded a flashlight app on my new cellphone, especially after the emergency lights in the bathroom ran out of power.

Eventually, I got home and discovered that we had also lost power--and many large tree branches, but nothing that caused significant damage. It was actually really nice. Phil and I had a relaxing evening chatting by candlelight while music played on the laptop that still had battery power.

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The next morning, I got to see all the damage while I was riding back to the hotel. We got to play a game of bush-branch-tree, identifying what that ground-level foliage was by the side of the road. The answer was often tree. It took a couple of weeks after the storm before the giant tree that was blocking a road north of our house got moved. As of today, a month after the storm, there are still piles of fallen branches pushed to the curb and waiting for the city to collect them. They claim they'll get here eventually.

In many ways, the power outage was good for 4th Street Fantasy. It made the convention memorable, promoted camaraderie, and didn't (quite) persist for an intolerable length of time. People staying in the hotel who remember glacial showers and critical coffee shortages may disagree.

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In addition to the lack of power, there were a couple of other differences this year.

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
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http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html


The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 8/15/2013.
Permanent link to this newsletter in the archives: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2013.html#071513

Editor's Note
Grammar is important for a writer, yes? Yes.

Automatic grammar checkers are generally pretty lousy, right? Right.

So what's a writer to do? Use reference materials! You can go (very) old school with the free edition of Strunk's The Elements of Style available online at http://www.bartleby.com/141/ . A more modern desk reference is also probably a good idea. I'm fond of my A Pocket Manual of Style. For all those finicky little questions like when titles should be capitalized, I like Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl .

Grammar is on my mind since I just reviewed Grammarly (http://www.grammarly.com/), a grammar-checking program and online webapp. The short version? I have yet to find a grammar checker that will catch all errors without spitting up a ton of false positives. Grammarly might be useful to people just starting to write or people who speak English as a second language, since they do a very good job of explaining the different grammar errors that are possible. The full review is here: http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/1107148.html .
.
What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:
Two SF/F conventions within a month of each other doesn't leave a whole lot of time for anything else! But I've finished writing "Jill Underhill," my short story side project, and I'm busy researching digital encryption and handwriting analysis and medieval monks for my next one. Hopefully, my notes from the panels I attended/participated in will get posted soon, when I have time.




The horror anthology Eulogies II: Tales From the Cellar is now available in print on Amazon.com (ebook versions coming soon). This anthology includes my short story, "The Miracle Material."

When manufacturers think they've found the perfect material, it soon becomes more common than plastic. That's when the troubles start.

Excerpt:

The landfill is safe. I think. Even tupperware frightens me now. The sight of a discarded teddy bear moves me to tears. I wonder if Meredith's teddy bear still lies abandoned on her bed, held under siege by the ever-glowing blue stars that decorate her bedroom.

I tell myself that Meredith is safe and happy. We came from the sea, the scientists said. When there were scientists. What could be more natural than for us to return to the sea? I tell myself that she is safe and happy within the bosom of the sea.

I know I lie.

Wherever Meredith may be, however she feels, she is not my little girl anymore. And it is all my fault.

Read more in Eulogies II.


Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!
- Abra Staffin-Wiebe
Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)

Grammarly (http://www.grammarly.com/) recently gave me a one-month trial membership to review their grammar checker. They bill themselves as "The World's Best Grammar Checker." If you've ever run Word's grammar checker and seen all the squiggly green lines popping up where they have no business being, you're probably thinking, "That's not saying much." So how did they do?

I had some initial problems just getting up and running. At first I couldn't copy and paste onto the website form in Firefox, and so was limited to the “upload” option. Using the upload option also misread the length of my document, so even though it is supposed to allow 20 pages of text, it complained that 16 pages uploaded in a .doc file was longer than its limit. After I found and installed the Firefox add-on that allows copy-and-paste on the Grammarly website, things went a bit more smoothly. This is also about when I learned that there was no cancel button once it starts processing text, as I noticed when I accidentally selected the wrong type of review.

Once you're ready to review your manuscript, it offers several options as to what type of writing your manuscript is, from academic to creative. I stuck with the creative setting, since the documents that I ran through it were manuscripts I had to critique. It reports the results grouped by category.

There were some good things about Grammarly. It does a great job catching comma usage problems and potential run-on sentences, which are two of the most common grammar problems I see when critiquing less-experienced writers. It also marked confusing modifiers and punctuation errors within a sentence correctly, most of the time. The place Grammarly really stands out is in its detailed explanations of the grammar errors it finds, which could be useful for a beginning writer or someone who speaks English as a second language. It was very nice to be able to just copy and paste the results (when they were valid) into the critiques I was sending out (telling them what the source was, of course).

However, the bad more than balanced the good. Grammarly flags sentences ending with a preposition as being grammatically incorrect—this is not true, though it is one of the top 10 grammar myths! It flagged accidentally run-together words for not-relevant grammar errors, instead of simple spelling errors (which it also searches for). Most of the review categories' suggestions were almost always wrong, particularly the use of articles and pronoun agreement sections. The commonly confused words category was worse than useless on a story written at some level of proficiency.

Overall, I would say that this service is not worth paying for. There are some exceptions to this. If you're just beginning to write or don't speak English as a first language, it could be a useful teaching tool. Even when Grammarly incorrectly flags something as being in error, the explanation of why is useful and would illustrate examples of the kind of error that may occur. It could also be good for someone who does a lot of critiques or copywriting, to help save them time. I do a fair number of critiques and Grammarly was helpful with those, but the price point is too high to be worth it to a casual user like me. And last but not least, an institutional license does seem like it could be a good investment for a school.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing iffy)
Short Stories:
Accepted and awaiting publication: 4
Archive trunk: 4
Edits needed: 11
To Submit: 2
To Submit for Reprint: 17
Submitted, waiting for response: 4
Writing in-progress: 2

Novels:
Archive trunk: 1
Rewrite/edits needed: 1
In progress: 3

Conclusions:
* I need to finish a damn novel (or at least get it to submission stage) so that I have one in circulation!
* I am still way behind on my editing. Grumble humph.
* I need to write more. A lot more. I should be doing that right now. In fact--goodbye!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (alas)
3 short stories accepted and waiting for publication
2 back-burnered novels-in-progress
1 active serial novel-in-progress
2 serial novel installments to edit
11 short stories in need of editing
1 short story to submit, low priority
16 short stories to get reprinted
7 submitted short stories that I'm waiting to hear back about
2 short stories in progress, hidden in my writing notebook
3 critique groups with outstanding crits to do
1 website to revamp
2 social media sites to join
199 writing-related "action needed" items
1 upcoming SF/F convention
1 market list to update monthly
1 writing podcast to intro etc.

...I think that's it?

And what have I done today? Written 500 words, gone to a book release party--and started watching L&O: Criminal Intent.

::head-desk::
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing iffy)
Market List Logo
http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html


The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 09/15/2012.
Permanent link to this newsletter in the archives: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2012.html#081512

Editor's Note

How do you deal with post-project-completion letdown? When I wrap a project up, I feel incredibly disinclined to dive right into something else. My brain says, "Time to take a vacation! You've earned it!" For me, this happens when I finish a writing project, a day job project, or even when I wrap up a story arc in my ongoing serial story, The Circus of Brass and Bone. I find it especially vexing when this happens after a time-consuming day job project, because darn it, I haven't been writing and I should write! A little bit of a break may be in order, but too much of one just leads to more procrastination.

What to do?

I suppose I should continue freewriting to keep the creative pipes from freezing up and maybe do some different activities to refill the creative well. Not for more than a day or two, though.

And then, of course, I should dive back into writing.

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

Sky-Tinted Waters, an anthology written by local Minnesota SF/F authors, is having its release party this month. If you're in the area, stop by, get a copy of the book, and have it signed by all the authors! https://www.facebook.com/events/181301265334496/


Sky-Tinted Waters editor Michael Merriam and copy editor Eli Effinger-Weintraub have nice things to say about “These Things Take Time,” my SF story about how to fix relationship woes:
http://www.michaelmerriam.net/2012/06/22/sky-tinted-waters-toc-17-these-things-take-time-by-abra-staffin-wiebe
http://backbooth.thesane.net/2012/06/22/sky-tinted-waters-toc-17-these-things-take-time-by-abra-staffin-wiebe/


Coming up, I'm going to WorldCon/ChiCon at the end of this month. This will be my first time attending and I don't know many people there, so I have no idea what I'm doing! If you see me, stop and say hi and introduce yourself. I'll be the tall woman with a long braid and awesome knee socks. I know, that narrows it down tremendously, right? ;)

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!
- Abra Staffin-Wiebe

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

* How to communicate with customers/fans [writing business]: http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1119216.html

* Case Study of an Author 13 Days Before Release of a Novel [humor]: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/644243.html

* The Method of Fun [motivation]: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/827683.html

* All about marketing, blogging, and social media [marketing, social media]: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/marketing/

* In which Mike Resnick tells it like it is [writing business, writing craft]: http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=2633

* What Not to Put in a Cover Letter [writing business]: http://www.kith.org/journals/jed/2004/08/22/2205.html


Featured Market
This month I'm featuring two markets! Both of them are taking an interestingly different approach to the publication business.

Thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter project, Crossed Genres has returned from the dead--and they've gone from paying a token amount per story to paying professional rates. Folks, that just doesn't happen! And yet, it has. The basics: science fiction and fantasy, themed issues, 1,000-6,000 words, no reprints, pays $.05/word. The August/September theme is "Boundaries."

Each month CG Magazine has a new genre or theme. Short story submissions must combine elements of either Science Fiction and/or Fantasy with the current theme. Do not send submissions to upcoming themes, they will be rejected without consideration!

We tend to favor character-driven stories, but that doesn’t mean we won’t appreciate a strong action piece. Any story which follows the above guidelines will be considered.

Things we want to see MORE of:

  • Queer characters
  • Characters of Color
  • Women MCs, especially in stories where romantic love, protecting a child, or rape/threat of rape are not her driving motivation.
  • Disabled characters
  • Science saves the day!
  • Far future
  • Stories set outside North America

Read more at Crossed Genres.


Crowded is a new, pro-paying magazine that is crowdsourcing its slush pile and--this is key--forbidding the kind of social gaming and popularity contest voting that I've seen in similar attempts elsewhere. Paying subscribers, submitting writers, and professional editors determine which stories will get accepted. The basics: all speculative fiction, 500-20,000 words, no reprints, pays AU$.05/wd.

We want speculative fiction. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, whatever. If you aren't sure what speculative fiction is, google it. Then submit your story elsewhere. This is Crowded Magazine, not Clueless Magazine.

Most magazines have guidelines describing the fiction they want to see. These guidelines invariably include plenty of editorial chestnuts as to what makes a good story. To be honest, we really don't know what makes a good story. We know what we like when we see it. But we're willing to offer a few nuggets of wisdom that will help propel your fiction through the slush pile and into the magazine:

  1. Speculative fiction is, arguably, a populist art. We're not looking for the next Faulkner. We're looking for stuff that people would read for entertainment. And, anyway, the slush reading is crowdsourced, so you're better off gunning for the unwashed masses as opposed to a specific editor's fetishes for gender bending or melodrama.
  2. No purple midgets, gay pirates, or unicorns. Actually, that's a lie. If you have a great story about a unicorn-riding purple midget battling a fleet of gay pirates, drop it in the queue. Really. We don't see enough of that kind of thing.
  3. In theory there are no restrictions on profanity, gore, sex, violence, and so on, but in our opinion stories that rely on profanity, gore, sex, etc for their whole effect are unlikely to be any good.
  4. The story must have a speculative fiction element. Note that purple midgets may or may not be considered speculative fiction, but unicorns probably are.
  5. Do not submit fan fiction.



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
Crossed Genres Themed issues. $0.0500
http://crossedgenres.com/submissions/magazine/
Crowded All spec-fic $0.0500
http://www.crowdedmagazine.com/guidelines.php
TM Publishing All genres, no explicit sex or violence. Short stories, novellas, and novels. $0.0500
http://tmpublishing.com/content/short-stories
Unidentified Funny Objects ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 08/31/2012 Humorous F/SF $0.0500
http://alexshvartsman.com/ufo-unidentified-funny-objects/
We See a Different Frontier ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 9/14/12 SF themed to colonialism from the viewpoint of the colonized. $0.0500
http://djibrilalayad.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/we-see-different-frontier-call-for.html
Nightmare Magazine Horror/dark fantasy $0.0500
http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/guidelines.html
Once Upon an Apocalypse ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 9/30/12 (deadline extended) OR WHEN FULL Fairy tale retellings with zombies (vol 1) or Cthulhu mythos elements (vol 2) $0.0300
http://onceuponanapocalypse.com/2012/04/21/guidelines-are-here-for-both-anthologies/
Insatiable Paranormal romance $0.0300
http://www.whitecatpublications.com/?page_id=1995
Dead North ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 9/30/2012 Zombie stories set in Canada $0.0190
http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/dead-north-guidelines/
Something Wicked ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY Science fiction and horror $0.0100
http://www.somethingwicked.co.za/submissions/
Aliens: Recent Encounters ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 10/15/12 Themed to aliens, reprints only. $0.0100
http://www.alexdallymacfarlane.com/2012/07/aliens-recent-encounters/
Interstellar Fiction SF $0.0100
http://interstellarfiction.com/fiction-guidelines/
California Cantata (Kazka Press) ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 09/30/12 Historical fantasy set in California. $0.0100
http://www.kazkapress.net/contests/california-cantata-anthology/
Passion for Weird Tales ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE UNTIL FILLED Strange stories $0.0025
http://www.greengeckopublishing.com/passion-for-series.html
Lamplight Horror, dark spec-fic, and noir
$150.00 http://lamplightmagazine.com/submissions/
One Small Step ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 09/30/12 SF themed to "one small step"
$76.81 http://fablecroft.com.au/about/submissions
Quantum Realities SF especially social science fiction
$25.00 http://www.jaxaspublishing.com/index.php/magazine/qr-submission-guidelines
eFiction All genres
$20.00 http://efictionmag.submittable.com/submit
Urban Occult ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 11/01/12 Horror/dark fantasy themed to modern urban occult.
$15.66 http://www.anachronpress.com/open-submissions-urban-occult-weirdhorror-anthology/
The Again Odd fiction
$15.63 http://www.iridumsound.co.uk/submissions/theagainsubmissions.htm
Doorways to Extra Time ONE-TIME ANTHOLOGY - DUE 10/15/12 Themed to getting extra time
$10.00 http://www.site.spencerhillpress.com/Doorways_to_Extra_Time.html
Obsidian River Steampunk
$10.00 http://www.obsidianriver.com/about/
Deimos eZine All spec-fic
$1.00 http://deimosezine.com/submissions/
Earthbound Fiction - DEAD MARKET Fantasy, sci-fi, adventure and mystery $0.0500
http://www.earthboundfiction.com/submissions#!__submissions
Title Goes Here - DEAD MARKET All spec-fic except sword&sorcery
$5.00 http://www.title-goes-here.com/Guidelines.html
Late Late Show Online, The - DEAD MARKET Dark
$15.00 http://www.latelateshow.net/submit.htm


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.
  • To help prevent these from being flagged as spam, please add this email to your contacts. Thanks!
  • 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.
  • To report a new paying market, go to my contact page.

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 (spacecat)
For the first time in a month and a half, I don't have a day job project eating up my precious working time! (Because I'm waiting to hear back from the client, but still.) I can do writing things! It's been so long, I--I hardly know where to start.

Good thing I keep lists and have procedures for just this sort of thing. "First do this, then do this." "Try this to get back into the story you were writing." Like that.

Yay!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
I have successfully finished and mailed off "Making God in Their Image"!

Of all my short stories, this may be the one that changed most between my plot outline and the final draft. I had written half of what I outlined as the main plot thread when I realized the wordcount was going to exceed the contest limit by a couple of thousand words at the rate I was going, and I couldn't prune out enough to keep it under. I pondered taking out the attempt/not-quite-success subplot that was supposed to provide impetus and show the possibility of change, but I feared that would leave me with a problem -> solution! storyline that would seem too easy. And the wordcount would still be tight.

After sleeping on it, I took out the half-written *main* plotline and turned the subplot into the main plot. This changed the emphasis and ending "feel" of the story considerably, as I discovered when my critiquers read the ending and went, "Huh. That last paragraph doesn't really jive." It also meant I needed to shift the emphasis for where readers would find resolution. Their satisfaction needed to come not from an outright triumph, but from a not-quite-success.

There are some parts I find charming that are still in there despite their original purpose being to support the "main" plotline: how much aliens love children, and the rarity and expense of living pet fish on an alien planet.

I like it quite a bit. I'm definitely going to send it out to be published whether or not it wins the contest. I just have to decide if I want to add that former main plotline back in--or not.

I am a bit sad that I didn't get to use my "what are the worst/funniest things you've seen someone do while drunk" research, though I did learn a valuable lesson from it: never trust a tipsy man with a full bladder.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Just finished multi-day day job work project! I should write! But today is Sunday! Sunday is submissions day! But I haven't written in days! I need to record the next Circus of Brass and Bone episode, which has been sitting around for a week waiting for me to get a chance to record it! But the baby is napping, so I can't record audio now! The next most urgent thing is editing the next 3 written episodes of Circus of Brass and Bone, especially since my husband (and alpha reader) just stuck his thumb on the ending and said, "This is crap. It feels like you're wrapping up all your loose ends for the end of the series, and why do you need this revelation here anyway?" But I want to write! But I may have to restructure those three episodes and that might change what should get written next. I should process my writing to-dos, and especially update my submissions and manuscripts spreadsheets before I forget and everything gets all bollixed! But today's my 11-year wedding anniversary (yes, we got married April Fools' Day)! I should spend time with my husband! That means not locking myself away in my study. I could work on editing or submissions on my ridiculously obsolete laptop, and be in the same room! But the baby's napping, so I should be using this undisturbed time to write! But what I need to write might change depending on what editing I have to do! And I just wasted writing time writing a blog post! Aaaaaaaaaaagggghhhh!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Market List Logo
http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html


The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 04/15/2012.
Permanent link to this newsletter in the archives: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2.html#031912

Editor's Note

I've always been fond of lists. (You may have guessed this.) And as a writer, I've found that lists are incredibly useful: lists of writing markets; lists of manuscripts; lists of submissions; lists of actions to take when I get a story published; and even a list of things to do when I officially become a "pro" writer--places to get memberships, etc.

I think I missed a list.

My writing group had a meeting about ebooks recently, and the discussion strayed to distribution and publicity. And I realized, I'm missing a list. If you're writing a book, whether you're planning on self-publishing or submitting to traditional big publishers or going through a traditional small press, you need your own list of what to do when your book gets published and in the months leading up to that publication date. You need a list (there's that list thing again!) of sites and blogs you want to ask to review your book. You need to be able to re-read that brilliant article about marketing. You need to remember that convention list, and those rules for how to effectively promote yourself at a convention. You need that list of agents or lawyers who specialize in negotiating writing contracts. You need to remember which bits of your website will need updating, and where you want to promote it. You need it all in one place and ready to go when lightning strikes.

So if you'll excuse me . . . I've got a list to make.

What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:
Not much! I realized that my long-term plot plan for Circus of Brass and Bone, my online post-apocalyptic steampunk serial story, was way too long and too big in scope and that the motivations for the climactic ending didn't make sense. So my brain is currently made out of plot-spaghetti, while I figure out how to keep in all the stuff I need to keep in while still ending the story in a more expeditious manner.

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!
- Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Things Shiny or Useful
Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (tender)
You know those little posturepedic pillows that people get to put against the small of their back when they're sitting in a desk chair? Well, I'm not sure how posturepedic the cat is, but he's sure giving it the old school try! He's being supportive of my writing in his own way.

The end.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (spacecat)
Many anthologies invite certain professional authors to submit stories. I am not at that level yet. However, I find that I really enjoy coming up with story ideas within the constrains of a themed collection. Even if the story is not accepted, the end result is usually quite good. Now that my writing productivity has recovered from me being a new mother (and I've got the next 2-almost-3 episodes of Circus of Brass and Bone written), I think I'll start considering myself "invited" to any themed anthology that pays at least $.05/word (that's considered professional rates).

And that is why I'm off to read Sir Conan Doyle's The Lost World on my ebook reader, thanks to the Gutenberg Project!

http://www.gutenberg.org/

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cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Abra Staffin-Wiebe

January 2019

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