cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

We are in the thick of the part of the year known as "convention season." This is a mixed blessing for my reading list. Reading books is panel prep! It counts as working! On the other hand, I try to keep distractions out of my reading list and so there are all kinds of wonderfully tempting books that I'm postponing reading for the next couple of months.

This summer, I'm on panels at 4th Street Fantasy Convention (next week!) and CONvergence. I'm also teaching a couple of one-day classes at The Loft Literary Center, but they aren't the kind that require reading whole novels.

Stealth Characterization via Setting ( explores creating characters indirectly, through how you construct and describe their surroundings.

 Writer ... With Kids: Finding Time to Create ( is a class for creative people with too little time.

 Interested? Go register!

 For 4th Street, I'm reading urban fantasy. I've started with a re-read of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It's been a few years since I last read it, but I know I'll enjoy it.

 My 4th Street panel is the very first panel of the convention: Even in Byerly’s, You’re Not Out of the Woods.


Thirty years ago, Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks gave us a vision of Minneapolis in which the magic was, much like Minneapolis’ own, hung on a balance between the pastoral influence of parks and wilderness and the urban jungle of clubs, skyscrapers, restaurants, and cavernous grocery stores. How has this intersection of asphalt and isolation influenced the genre moving forward? What unique elements of the numinous can we find where green spaces touch city shadows? Fantasy fixed itself up a nice place in the city a few generations ago — is it still a comfortable tenant? What does pastoral even mean to those who’ve never known magic outside the shadow of a smokestack?

 Panelists: Holly Black, Pamela Dean, Casey Blair, Dana Baird, and me.

I'm on three panels at CONvergence. Two of the panels are discussing writing techniques, but I'm going to need to brush up a bit for the third one, which is about the surveillance state in reality and fiction.

Thursday, Jul 6, 8:30 PM
Soul of Wit
Description: Short story and flash fiction authors discuss their writing techniques and provide tips on how to make the most of a limited word count. Panelists: Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Aimee Kuzenski, Ben San Del, Elizabeth Bear (mod), Roy C. Booth

Friday, Jul 7, 5:00 PM
What to Do When They're Watching You
Science fiction writers have long been concerned about a surveillance state, but recent technologies have made this fear more and more realistic. What technologies are watching us and what does science fiction tell us to do about it? Panelists: Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Dave Walbridge, Craig A. Finseth, Jamie Riedesel, Eric Zawadzki (mod)

Friday, Jul 7, 7:00 PM
Pixar's Story Writing Rules
Pixar has published 22 rules to aid in writing stories. Which ones work? Do any NOT work? Panelists: Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Melissa Olson (mod), John Heimbuch, Dave Walbridge, Tex Thompson


 Do you have any recommendations for good SF about living in a surveillance state? Let me know! The setting can be near-future or far-future. I am especially interested in stories that came out within the last few years.

 Do any of the panel topics raise questions in your mind? What are they? I want to be as prepared as I can be for what the audience might want to know.

Finally, if you know anyone who might be interested in the productivity or advanced characterization classes, please point them that way!

 Painted eyes


cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
I had all kinds of plans to be wonderfully productive and social etc. this week, and then I was caught by The Sick that had Phil the previous two weeks. It seems to be proceeding according to the same schedule, too. After a week of being sick, I feel normal-with-congestion some of the time, and then The Sick hits me over the head and I feel woozy and incapable of basic reasoning. Happily, it's a three-day weekend, so Phil is home to take care of the kids when The Sick sucker-punches me. Today, Theia also started showing signs of The Sick.

The Sick sidelined some of my plans, including the ones to meet with my resident archaeology/Belize expert to brainstorm about the Belize book. Bah. I am not getting my scheduled number of words written per week, so that whole end-of-the-year time table may be a myth after all. However, I've been doing reading and making notes and trying to figure things out.

Rivers of blood! Crystal skulls! Rivers of scorpions! Coral reefs! Jungles! Howler monkeys!

Writing was going really well until I hit the part where the plot moves to Belize and I have to have actually figured out things like the tour itinerary and what plot movement will happen where and, um, what plot movement will happen at all, and who the supporting characters on the tour are. Turns out I hadn't plotted as much as I thought. I just had a great concept and (general) setting and very little in the way of actual plot. Phil laughed when I said this. Just recently he was telling me that I am more of a pantser* than I think I am.

I'm also figuring out convention stuff for this summer. I'll be going to two local SF and fantasy conventions, CONvergence and 4th Street Fantasy. I have a reading planned for CONvergence, which means I'm also going to be experimenting with homemade donuts. I will be on panels at a number of conventions greater than or equal to 1.

[WARNING: BABY TMI] And I'm trying to figure out how to deal with my darling baby girl, who in the last couple of weeks has decided that rather than weaning as planned, she would like to nurse more. It will be highly inconvenient (for me) if I'm still a milch mom when I'm planning on being gone from early morning into the evening, particularly since I'm not getting a hotel room at either of these conventions. I have no experience in weaning a baby, since Cassius weaned himself cold-turkey when he turned one, and I'm rather terrified of it being an upsetting process. Any tips, other mothers?

* One of the eternal writing debates is whether 'tis better (for a given writer) to plot or to pants, as in
write "by the seat of their pants."
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Here are my notes from the AWP panels that I attended, posted because a few people expressed interest. As always, it's a mix of what they said that was interesting to me and what I thought. I wrote up my overall conference experience here:

These are the panels I attended:
Time and Structure in the Novel - A+
Historical Fiction and Fictional History (partial) - D
Weird Science: Strategies to Encourage Innovative Writing in the Workshop - B
Substance as Style: What Noir Writing Can Teach Us About Literary Form - B-/C+
The Art of the Art of - D

Read more... )
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
These are my notes from the writers seminar. As always, my notes are partially things said by the panelists, and partially ideas sparked by them. I don't attribute, because I have a lousy memory for such things. I haven't divided my notes into sections by what the ostensible topic was, because I noticed that the things I took notes on generally have very little to do with whatever the listed topic during that time was. About the writers seminar in general . . . this one felt a bit more Writing 101 to me than previous seminars have been. That may be because it lacked the narrower focus of, for example, last year's seminar, which was themed to storytelling. It may be because I've leveled up to "pro" and so the intermediate stuff feels more beginnery to me. I do think this will be the last one I attend. Worth noting, however, is that all the *rest* of 4th Street Fantasy this year felt even more writer-oriented than usual. It was definitely a writers conference this year.

Thrillers are all about resetting the world back to normal, but F/SF usually rejects that idea.

You cannot change the world without changing the character, and vice versa. Do it consciously.

Stories are based on the moment of change, but that works because a change is either called for or resisted, and the bit before the change can speak to which it will be and make it more resonant (while hopefully engaging the reader).

Alternative to the Bechdel Test: the Mako Mori ( test. Does a female have a character arc that doesn't center around a male?

Look for source/inspiration material that others haven't mined.

If you're trying to subvert a trope, don't stick with the original trope toolong, or you'll lose some readers.

Consider wish -> wish fulfillment -> consequences. Don't necessarily need to show all the consequences, but is better if you can show the realization that they're there.

If it feels familiar - setting, character, plot, any trope that you want to use - try to step back, figure out conditions needed to make it work, and figure out under what logic/worldbuilding will that ring most true (instead of just using an established set piece). For example, a non-evolving medieval society exists because if you try to advance, people will come and burn your workshop down. That kind of thing. Examine and justify your tropes.

Everybody wants me to read Patrick O'Brian. Still.

California still uses irregular verb forms. Dreamt instead of dreamed, etc. How lovely!

If there is a lot of something allowed or prevalent (in a society, setting, genre, or the rest of the book), it's absence becomes much more striking. This is particularly noticeable if its presence in a genre is new due to relaxed restrictions (i.e. swears, sex).

Definition: "sales blurb" - a blurb from another author that goes in a letter to the editors you're trying to sell to. Not the same as the blurbs for the back of a published book.

Work on figuring out *actually* how long it will take you to write something. Budgeting time and being able to give accurate delivery times to an editor is GOLD.

Plot-wise, remember that climax != payoff (necessarily).

Books can be a pain and a misery to write, but years later you can look at it and enjoy it. Or they can be great fun to write, with no suffering! Keep your head on straight and do not link a difficult/easy writing process to the end product's quality/enjoyability.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
I had a 4th Street! There were panels! I listened to them, took notes on interesting bits, and worked on writing a story longhand in my notebook the rest of the time. I will talk about these things in a different post. I also went to the writer's workshop beforehand, though I was admonished a bit for going, because it's geared more for beginning and intermediate writers. I managed to share a couple of meals with people, but mostly ate with family/alone. Dietary restrictions are hard, and so are time restrictions, and it's really a pain in the stomach when they combine. No weather catastrophes struck this year, although we did all get little LED lights as our attendance gift.

I am no longer sure if writing a story longhand during convention panels is a good idea. Yes, I end up getting some writing done, which is yay! But I lose that "deluge of ideas colliding against each other and reforming" effect. It's the shower effect; good ideas happen in the shower because the mind's idle cycles are not actually idle. Hearing smart people talk about interesting things is kind of an idea shower, and not doing anything except listen (and take notes) frees up the processing cycles to come up with really interesting intersections and ideas. Writing uses those cycles. Maybe. It's a hypothesis. I might need to try a panel or two without and a panel or two with so that I can compare the quality of my notes/ideas. The amount of writing I get done longhand is relatively small. If I choose to write and lose the shower effect.

I was even on one of the panels, the one about sentences and grammatical structures. I managed to mostly avoid sounding like an idiot, although I did flub my introduction because there was banter! And I was flustered! I need to work on my panel persona, though. Turn the personality and the funny up a notch, as it were, and not just be "painfully earnest studious person," which is not really me either. It would be easier if I were standing on a stage instead of sitting behind a table. As is, I tend to tighten up, which is not so entertaining. I had a pretty dress, though! Cassius told me so, when I left the hotel room. I also did homework for the panel, in the form of reading Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. It's pretty damn good, and I'll have to think about and work on its techniques for a while before I can integrate them fully. I think this was also the only panel where at the end, most of the panelists offered homework assignments, in the form of books they recommend reading.


I also had a six-month-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a thirty-mumble-old in tow, so the amount I was able to do outside of panels was inevitably limited. On short breaks, I was running up to our hotel room to nurse the little girl. On long breaks, I was running up to our hotel room to nurse the little girl, give Phil a break, and try to figure out where I could safely eat food. Mostly Phil and I just ate together, either at a "safe" restaurant or from supplies we'd brought from home (baking a double batch of ginger cookies and taking them along was a great idea!). I could eat some of the food in the con-suite: pita chips, fresh fruit, eggs, that sort of thing. Cassius could (and would) eat some of it, too. One meal we managed to eat at the hotel restaurant with a bunch of my local writerfolk friends. Not recommended--it was overpriced and the food wasn't fantastic. Good company, though. Another meal I ate with friends and Seanan McGuire, who as it turns out knows Martha Hage from way back in the day, so Mars actually showed up at 4th Street for the first time, too. Double-take time! We chose to eat at the Irish pub while America was playing in the World Cup, so that was--a thing. There was loud chanting. Fish and chips was tasty, though!

That was one of the ways I could give Phil a break--take the energetic two-year-old downstairs to run around and burn off energy and maybe see if I could persuade him to eat something while we were at it. Although I couldn't eat the pizza welcome dinner, Cassius managed some of it. I also had success (for the first and possibly only time) walking the boundaries of the conference room with him and explaining that he had to stay inside them or we'd be going back to the hotel room. Another time, I wore Theia in the Moby wrap and took Cassius to the small upper plaza and let him run around while I sat and talked to people; it helped that there were also cards he could look at and play with, even if he was very insistent about the pictures on them being of lizards wearing hats in jars, instead of snakes. They were totally snakes. And after the conference, Cassius and I got to go swimming! He did pretty well with floating, once I got him in a life jacket with one of those foam noodles to hold on to. There was a slightly older little girl who became very upset when he talked about there being fish in the pool, because THERE WERE NO FISH AND EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW THAT. Kids are funny.

I had maybe a couple of half-hour segments in the evening to socialize solo, but I've basically forgotten how to do that. Socialize, that is. I listened to music. I chatted with friends. I played a smidgeon of Cards Against Humanity. I stilted! Gaea taught me how, using one-foot-high stilts and the assistance of Tim, who is large enough to possibly actually catch me if I fell. I did not fall. I only wobbled once. I was impressed by a) how weird it felt to be as tall as a professional male basketball player, and b) how tight those things have to be tied on.

. . . Somewhat more thinky panel notes to follow.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

In a contract, make sure there is language saying they "cannot take reserve against returns" for ebooks/audio.

Should stop taking reserve after 4 periods and should justify the reserve if you ask them to. What are they basing their reserve on? First year sales (much higher) or sales on current year?

Look at the contract to see what the advance is based on.

When published

Not earning out the advance doesn't mean the publisher couldn't give you a higher advance or that the publisher isn't profitable. And vice versa.

Always check royalty reports; try double-checking using Amazon rankings.

If a book is very successful, the best option may be to incorporate.
* Can give you a car and write it off.
* Less liability.
* Corporation is immortal, you just need to transfer stock.
* Make sure writer is a corporation Director, not a work-for-hire employee.

After your death

When you get a literary executor for your estate, make sure the executor divides the proceeds (not the agent, unless the agent is also the executor), which gives an incentive to keep books in print.

Set up a trust to handle money--also need a trustee to handle the money.
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.


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.



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.



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]:

All posts from 4th Street 2013:
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.


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.



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, 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).


All posts from 4th Street 2013:
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!).


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.


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

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:


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:
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

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.


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:
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!

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.

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.

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.

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.


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:
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
Seems about the right time for another game of "Where's Abra?"


2015 - A Circus of Brass and Bone Book Release

Would you enjoy escaping into a post-apocalyptic steampunk novel about a circus traveling through the collapse of civilization? A Circus of Brass and Bone is available in trade paperback through Amazon and in ebook format through all major online retailers. Published writing as Abra SW.

Amazon | Google Play | Smashwords | B&N | Apple | and many others

Trade paperback: $13.99, Ebook: $3.99

Discover more stories at my website!

Upcoming conventions I'm attending!

4th Street Fantasy Convention, June 26-28th

CONvergence, July 2nd - 5th

Enjoy an A Circus of Brass and Bone reading at the CONvergence convention in Minneapolis!

11 a.m. on July 5, 2015

There will be donuts!

I will also be speaking on panels at this convention! Exactly which panels ... well ... I'm still waiting to find out.


I'm in a lot of places! Mostly these are all their own thing, but there is some information that I post to all of these, like my market list updates, new publications, and other major news (writing-related or not). - My website. Home base for my writing. The best place to find things I've written.

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

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

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

Google+ - Personal stuff, by and large. This is where I put most of my little updates about my life and my family.

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

Etc. - G+, Pinterest, Flickr, and so on. These are other, more specialized social networks.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!/
I'll CONverge tomorrow/
It's only a day awaaaaay!


Hope to see some of you at CONvergence tomorrow! My panel schedule is filled with useful apocalyptic promises, or something like that. My official CONvergence schedule is here:

More details on my summer appearances can be found here:
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Happy things:
1. Because of Pride, the pastor read a 500-year-old prayer of blessing written by Menno Simons for the marginalized and the persecuted, and
2. For the first time ever, Cassius actually stayed in the nursery without either parent for a while and *didn't* have an atomic-level meltdown that led to the staff coming to bring us back. There was some fussing, but he was happily playing when we picked him up.

Tangentially, if I'm ever on a panel about religious schisms, I'll just introduce myself as "a member of a Protestant, Anabaptist, Mennonite, GLBTQ-affirming I know all about schism." I have no plans to be on such a panel, but.

(x-posted from Fb because it actually seemed to have a little substance)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
This weekend (for a fairly flexible definition of weekend that stretches from Thursday night through early Monday morning) we attended 4th Street Fantasy Convention 2012 en famille.

4th Street is single-track programming, so there are a whole bunch of panels in a row with breaks in-between. It's not quite like, say, CONvergence, where there are a ton of things going on at once and you sort of pick and choose whether you want to go to a panel or watch a movie or go to a craft room or play games and then you take a nap at some point and circle around all the themed parties in the evening. 4th Street is all about the panels, and attendees are at least 80% writer-related: editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers.

This year, Phil and the baby also went to the hotel and we got a room. During panels AKA all day long, Phil took care of the baby. I would sneak back during breaks to feed the baby, and I had my tablet with me so that Phil could email me updates like, "Baby asleep. Do not come back to the room and risk waking him up," and "Baby awake and fussing. Will hold the fort until the break," and "Oh God. Baby super-pooped. We may need a new room." I would feed baby at the beginning and the end of the meal breaks, and go out to dine with people in the middle. In the evenings, sometimes I wandered out to socialize on my own (this may seem like a contradiction, but it is a sadly accurate reflection of the way I socialize in large groups--I am more of a drifter than a joiner), sometimes I took care of the baby in the hotel room so Phil could have a break, and sometimes I wandered out to socialize and took the baby with me. It was a good dry run for WorldCon, and I'm feeling more confident about doing these things with Phil and baby in tow.

I had a good 4th Street. The panels sparked shiny thoughts. I have more story ideas to add to the list. I have new aspects of the writing craft to explore. I talked to some people, if not as many people as I would have liked. There were things different from previous years, and some of them were good, and some of them were not so much. I did not (I hope) say anything to an editor that will forever blight my writing career. (Phil: "Because you didn't talk to them. Cojones mas pequeño.")

Enjoyable things to remember:

* Seeing Mary Robinette Kowal give her introduction in both "the phone sex voice" and "the gnome voice." Yes, that is what the next two pictures are of.



* Ellen Klages auctioning things off with the authority vested in her by the finger-tentacles.

* Delicious frosted sugar cookies shaped like computers and books and cauldrons and dragons and swords and Minnesota.

* Mary Robinette Kowal, puppeteer extraordinaire, manipulating a shoe that seemed to have a complex relationship with Scott Lynch (to illustrate a point regarding body language and movement in the writer's workshop). "What did you say?"

* Seeing Cassius meet Connor, who is about four months older. Cassius: "It is a person my size! I must follow him! Mama, let me hold your fingers so I can walk after him!" Babies do not understand the idea of personal space. Cassius stalked Connor the entire time. I did have to explain that we do not strangle other babies upon first meeting them, however. (If you think about it, when reaching out to another person, the neck is a convenient place to grab!)

* Getting photographs of people sitting in the seats lit by spotlights. I usually have a camera with me, but at 4th Street I swap that out for a writing notebook, and it has always felt strange to attend such an enjoyable event and end up with no pictures! This year I have pictures. On the other hand, wanting to take pictures did slightly distract me from musing on writingy things, so I think it is not a thing that I should plan on doing for more than a couple of panels. But I am happy I did it. Even if I did forget the low-light telephoto lens I wanted to use (grr).

* Trying dim sum for the first time! I had always supposed it was another type of Chinese food, instead of a serving method for trying lots of different types of Chinese food. Variety-seeker that I am, I liked it very much.

* Sitting on the edge of the pool with Cassius and watching him kick his feet furiously to make the water go splash.

* Discovering that Phil left our front door at home unlocked and open for a couple of days while we were at the hotel, but nothing bad happened because of it! We also forgot to take the trash out when we left (Would-be burglar: "Ugh! What's that smell? Is there a dead body in there?"). The cats enjoyed spending time in our covered front porch (WBB: "Those cats look really well-fed. They've been eating the dead body! I'm outta here!").

* Boggling at the variety of options at the buffet that ate three other buffets (Golden Moon something-or-other?) and trying new foods like snails (They were crunchy! What?!) and frog (pretty tasty).

* Seeing Janet Grouchy in the auctioned-off golden-cream shawl that the 4th Street attendees as a whole bought for her.


* Sipping scotch and learning that (you guessed it) MRK has somehow gotten John Scalzi to agree to wearing a regency dress (possibly with bonnet) at WorldCon if certain fundraising conditions are met. There was also talk of Scalzi and Cory Doctorow doing a Rocky Horror Picture Show dress-up. This was when Phil came out to get me because the baby had woken up fussy (did I mention he was teething?) and needed Mama. Phil took the scotch; I took the baby. Phil may have gotten the better end of that bargain....

* Hearing "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" (okay, but why is everyone acting like they're in agony?) and then seeing the video (brain processing overload! does not compute!).

(All my 2012 4th Street posts, of which this is the first.)


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

March 2019

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