cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

Daily life: When I can get Theia to sleep for a morning nap, first I put in a half-hour with a library exercise DVD, and then I take Cassius outside to play while she sleeps. Sometimes this is less than half an hour. Sometimes this is an hour and a half. Sometimes he wants back inside (like today). During this time, I try catching up on my emails and working on writing-related-but-not-actual-writing things. Today he stole my bike helmet and insisted on wearing it while he sat on his toy motorcycle and scooted it around the yard and pushed the buttons to make it honk and comment on the weather and turning directions. We've never discussed helmets. Yay, ambient safety knowledge?


Other things: ran errands with 2 kids in tow on public transit; started a new writing schedule; finished the Circus of Brass and Bone rewrite portion; watched Theia cruise around everywhere; wrestled with church chores and not being a joiner and baby nap schedules; and went to Como Zoo en familie.

Help, I've fallen into a book series and I can't get out! Wait. I don't actually want to get out. I'm actually really enjoying Michelle West's House War series. There's a bit of awkwardness in the middle when she tells us readers that this series is built around another series--with different main characters--and that the main character in this series is a minor character in that series, but that series is where the events are happening during a gap in this series. Complicated. She does put a nice synopsis up on her website, though, and so I stuck with the House War series and ignored the other series. Worked for me. Fish out of water / building a new life under new circumstances stories are a huge, major weakness of mine, so I'm pretty delighted by this one. The story goes from a struggle to survive because of poverty to a struggle to survive because of wars for power among gods and men. There are . . . some things that might require content warnings, but they're pretty well signaled in advance so you can decide for yourself.

I successfully went to the grocery store and then to the new Walker library in Uptown (past $15/hour* fast food wage protesters). This involved taking a toddler, a baby, a stroller, a mobi wrap, a backpack full of groceries and books, and an overflow grocery bag of diapers on and off the bus. Hence my sense of accomplishment!

Writing during naptime at home is not being very useful for me. Partly because when I don't know when or if I'll get writing time, I get cross and fretful. Partly because even when the kids are sleeping, part of my attention is on them instead of on my writing. Partly because their sleep schedules do not always align and I may get practically no time to write. So! This week I started trying to get two hours on Wednesday and three hours on the weekend designated as go-to-the-library-and-write time. Or the coffee shop, depending. Phil is somewhat cranky about this, but he is
any time I leave the house alone.<

As a result, the rewrite portion of the new ending of Circus of Brass and Bone is FINISHED!!!!!! Raaaaaa . . . the crowd goes wild. Now I just need to write the all-new stuff. No worries, it's all outlined, and it should go smoothly. A couple more weeks and I think I'll be for-reals done! SO HAPPY.

10 mo., 1 wk. Theia is cruising! She's been pulling herself up to a stand on--well,
everything--for a week or so, and now she's taking little steps between things, while holding on. So cute! I remember being terrified when C did this, because he frequently fell and always hit the floor head-first. So far, Theia does really well at a) landing in a sitting position, or b) catching herself on her arms. So much less terrifying! (knock on wood).


The zoo was full of adorable baby animals, too! (Two of which were mine.)



cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
This week: a long weekend; Theia's 9-month check-up; a writer's group meeting that critted "You May Also Like Gas Masks" (needs a couple of fixes but shows promise) and "Look Back to Keep Her" (trunk it); ridiculous amounts of dirty dishes; restructuring the ending of Circus of Brass and Bone (in progress) at Five Watt Coffee; baby's first Renfest; weird genetic syndromes; and Odyssey publishing "Reconnect" in their September issue.

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

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


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


On Saturday, we went to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for the first time time in many years. Special thanks to Gaea for the tickets (at least in theory)! It was Cassius and Theia's first time, although Theia isn't really old enough to participate! Going with kids is a very different experience. Used to be, I would go with a group of friends, drink mead, eat food on a stick or in a breadbowl, and watch the comedy performances. This time I actually took Cassius to see the special attractions that I'd never bothered with before--Mermaid Cove and Fairy Forest--watched a juggling performance, made a fairy wand for him in the kids' crafts section (lost before we even got to the car, much to his upset), and did the punch-card scavenger hunt that won him a dragon pendant at the end of the visit. We went into three stores at the very beginning of our visit and then no more after that. Casualties of the visit were Cassius' venerable straw hat, his fairy wand, and one of our tires. Getting a flat tire at the end did put rather a damper on the visit, and it meant that we spent the rest of the weekend at home.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

One of the photos from my dad's wedding. I like this one because it's quiet, and contemplative, and yet--to me at least--it hints of celebration going on elsewhere.
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Once again, I have failed to take any new photos except of the small one. I need to work on that!


Helping, whether that help is wanted or not!
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Because water lily! Taken on a Labor Day weekend trip to Como Zoo.

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Lots of works start off promising something, but never deliver. Why is it important that books/movies/whatever keep the promises that they make? Panelists: Melinda Snodgrass, Sean M. Murphy, Caroline Stevermer, Abra Staffin-Wiebe

These are my brief outline notes for the keeping promises panel that I was on. The actual panel may or may not have discussed things quite different from this.

Negative promises: "I promise I won't..." Caveat: unless I do it really, really well. Much easier to get away with in a short story.

Be aware of genre promises. No deus ex machina, magic is real, crime will be solved, main male and main female character in love at the end.

Tour guide: promise sunny Caribbean and take them to Antarctica - some will like, but most don't have proper clothes or had really pinned their hopes on those sandy beaches.

Relationship promises may result in more reader emotional engagement--and greater anger if broken.


Fiction can be a collaboration between the author and the reader - one writes down words, the other imagines a world out of them. Reader believes that they're building one thing, author is really building another--the whole thing can fall apart.

Breaking previously established world rules--works best if can establish as "characters were mistaken."

Think of books that failed the "Wall Test" - often it's because of broken promise
resolution not worth reading to
resolution betrays reader's understanding of main character, or how fantasy/sci-fi world works
failure or deliberate breakage of emotional tone and resonance
ignore the limits the story sets, and not in a good way
ending not really an ending!

It's all about proper cuing for the reader--for the casual browser in the bookstore!--down to little things like "there will be erotica in this book" or "bad things will happen." First couple of pages. Consider setting, hints of themes, warnings of hot button stuff, etc. But don't stress--should all be a natural and organic part of the opening! Some people use prologs to do this kind of thing. Be vewy, vewy careful.

Beyond the story itself, author promises can include things like
I won't be a dick
I will write more of this series
I will finish this book and have it out by such-and-such a time
This is the kind of experience you get from my books

Good to be aware of that kind of promise, but as always, "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch."


All CONvergence 2013 posts:

...aaaand, that's all folks! The end of my panel notes for this year! I also sat on the "Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Writing" panel, but I'm not posting my panel prep notes for that since 9/10ths of the subject matter didn't come up--so I can save it for some other day.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
These are my brief outline notes for the apocalyptic fiction panel that I was on. The actual panel may or may not have covered most of this.

I was on the panel with Fred Greenhalgh (lives off-grid, does The Cleansed podcast/radio drama), Matthew Boudreau (radio drama producer), and Ryan Alexander (mod - computer guy, hacker, Burner, etc.).

...I went back and counted, and so far I've brought about the end of civilization as we know it 4 times.

"Every death is the end of the world, every divorce an apocalypse."

Sometimes worldwide destruction is the only thing that seems big enough to speak to the pain.

All sorts of worlds come to an end on an everyday basis, whether that means the end of a relationship, a job, a dream, politics, loss of religious faith, shattered dreams, serious personal injury or illness, or the death of someone close.

Restarting of the world in fiction can give us hope that our small, personal worlds can restart as well.

Philosophically, one could argue that most stories in all genres are apocalyptic!

Undervalued skills--and therefore people--become important.

Esp. appealing to makers and hackers (not computer variety) - a chance to make society from the bones of the old.

Can emphasize the coming together of different groups of people.

For writers, a chance to rebuild the world better
bicycles are the best means of transport
hand-made goods are more valued
re-emphasize values

Lots of real-world stimulus for apocalyptic scenarios: global climate change, nuclear war (very earliest childhood), volcano that's a few years overdue on errupting that will make life impossible in the northern hemisphere. Or see world closing in around us with ubiquitous surveillance and ever-increasing legislation.

Feeling of accomplishment after reading some of these, as if we've done part of our homework!

Books: World War Z, The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham, The Stand - Stephen King, There Will Be Dragons - John Ringo, The Change series - S.M. Stirling

When one man dies, it's a tragedy, when thousands die, it's statistics, when millions die, it's entertainment.

Misc. things to look up: TEOTWAWKI, Lehman's catalog


All CONvergence 2013 posts:
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CONvergence is not the most thinky of the conventions I attend, but I do have a smattering of notes from panels I watched. And a smattering of unrelated photos.


How to Write an Interesting Hero

Are you thinking of your character as a hero, a protagonist, or a PoV? There are different nuances.

Flaws may drive action more than virtues, whether by giving in to them or overcoming them.

Science Questions

Quantum mechanics leading to consciousness outside the brain = very bad science.

The Science Behind British Sci-Fi

It is a huge resource use to have limbs (or extra limbs) if you can get food without them. Look at snakes!

Fun with panspermia.

Do remember that aliens could probably not eat Earth things or at least they'd have a funny effect.

On the other hand, invasive species tend to be generalists, tolerating a wide range of food, temperature, etc.


Dystopic vs. Optimistic SF

Good site for science/fiction brainfood:

The biggest pitfall of writing in a utopia is dullness and lack of conflict.

Beware writing in a solution to the dystopia that's easy. Multiple possible solutions (all with difficulties) can add good conflict.

Contemporary Sword & Sorcery: Leaving the Battlefields for the Back Alleys

The current trend is for small-scale epic fantasy.

I also wrote down a cryptic note whose meaning I have no clue about: "Prime Books, Yamamoto, Parker." WTF, past me?

Beyond SF 101

What are your goals along the way that benchmark your progress to (your definition of) success? It helps to know the mile-markers as well as the end destination.


All CONvergence 2013 posts:
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This was the most useful (writing-related) panel that I watched. Although it was talking in specific about real, existant London, there were lots of excellent worldbuilding nuggets to take away.

London in Fact and Fiction

One effect of the Blitz is that there remain Tudor-era buildings beside the most modern of structures. Construction from radically different time periods is side-by-side because of the patchy destruction caused by the bombs--keep this kind of effect in mind for world-building.


Clean-looking cement still exists in some places. The technique for making it has been forgotten since.

Often, old ruins (previous history) are discovered and quickly excavated before they have to be covered back up again so that the city can keep on growing.

Historically, "The X Arms" is the pub you'd go to in order to meet people from X profession. Bricklayers, etc.

The first city to invent or implement a new thing is the city that has all the errors and bugs. For example, the London Underground only has one track, so they have to shut it down every night to go in and clean, instead of letting it run continuously. (The people responsible for cleaning out the hair from the Underground to keep it from catching fire are called fluffers, by the way!)

Secret London:

Great discoveries are made in places that are horrible to live in. For example, the cause of cholera was discovered because of crowding and water pollution.

London has laws requiring the keeping/presenting of a historical object in public view despite it existing in a commercial space.

If you're writing something set in a foreign city, try having the PoV be a non-native to help cover for errors.


All CONvergence 2013 posts:
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AKA the year of the 5-hour badge line! CONvergence keeps growing and growing. It's kinda crazy. This year they expanded into I-don't-know-how-many overflow hotels for congoers, they started hosting programming in a secondary hotel as well, and they had the Line of Infamy. As a "participating local pro," I got to pick up my badge in a separate, very short line, something I was very, very grateful for when I saw how bad the lines were (and these were the lines for picking up already-purchased badges, mind you!). While I picked up my badge, some poor woman came up to say that she'd lost her badge and needed a replacement. She was practically in tears because she'd waited in line for 5 hours, dropped the badge, and it vanished before she retraced her steps 30 seconds later.

IMG_0554 IMG_0553

I had an okay con. I did a little of almost everything, which I've figured out is the best way for me to enjoy CONvergence. Attend some panels, do some tabletop gaming, take photos of the cosplayers, participate in some crafty activity at Connie's Sandbox, listen to some soundstage entertainment, investigate the merch room, etc. It was a bit more challenging for me this year since a) I had no hotel room to retreat to (definitely a good idea for CONvergence if you can afford it!), and b) I was about five months pregnant. But money's tight, and the main reason I was able to go this year is that as a participating local pro, I didn't have to pay admission. A hotel room was out of the question. I was pretty wiped-out a couple of the days, especially before I figured out that as a pregnant woman, I reeeeaaaally needed three square meals in addition to the snacks available at consuite. Rice with cheese-broccoli soup on top is delicious but inadequately filling. Big thanks to the Merriams for inviting me to their hotel room to watch the opening ceremonies and Masquerade (go, Dana!) and to Danielle for volunteering to drive me home several evenings. The evenings were not so alluring to me since I couldn't drink (and needed to avoid loud music) and it was really difficult to tell if there was anything *other* than booze at a party.


Overall, I had a good time. Next year, I won't be going to CON, because I'll have a 6-month-old in tow. Practically, this means that the best way to attend conventions is to get a hotel room and have Phil, the toddler, and the baby hunker down for the duration while I dash between convention activities and the hotel room to nurse the baby. 4th Street is still a go, Wiscon is a maybe, and CONvergence is a no.


This year was my first attending CONvergence as a participating local pro. What this meant is that I agreed to talk on three panels, I didn't have to pay admission, and I got a much shorter line to pick up my badge (a much larger bonus than I was expecting!). There was also a reception, but alas, our annual 4th of July party was a scheduling conflict. I flipped a coin on whether or not I'd be able to get a ride there in time to participate, and sadly the answer was no. I spoke on panels about Apocalyptic Fiction, Keeping Promises, and Things I Wished I'd Known Before I Started Writing. Yes, I will be posting my talking point notes from the first two panels! Not from the last, because mostly we talked about other things. This whole sitting-on-panels thing has really made clear to me that having talking point notes is a great help, especially as a stress-reliever, but that they may barely be touched, depending. I think the panels went okay. I only had a couple of pregnancy-brain-related word flubs (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later damn it!), and they were panels I enjoyed attending. I also got a good idea for a non-fiction writing article out of it, so we'll see how that goes.


As far as panels I attended, London in Fact and Fiction really stood out as having excellent material relevant to worldbuilding. Other than that, as is usual for CONvergence, I only took a smattering of notes.


All CONvergence 2013 posts:
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2013_07_19_8038, originally uploaded by aswiebe.

Because who doesn't like a good photo that's both cheerful and potentially sinister?

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)

I like this photo because it feels so quintessentially CONvergence, to me, in many ways. Also because the gorilla double-face is very creepy once you notice it. I have a bunch more photos, over on Flickr and on my Facebook, and I'll be posting a few of my favorites once I get around to writing up my con report, which could be next week or could be the 5th of Never, depending on how fast I meet my other deadlines.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Remember last week (or so) when I discovered my hard drive was dying? Yeah. So that happened when I went to upload this new photo so I would have something new to post for Photo Friday. Much has happened since then, and the photo *really* doesn't seem worth all the hassle. But here it is.

It is still pretty. And it is still illustrative of what happens because 1) I like flowers, and 2) there are farmers' markets again.

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From our recent trip to the Minnesota Zoo. This photo is all about the paw.
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Humans are primates, you say?


I suppose there's a good reason his latest nickname is Monkey.
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That right there? Yeah, that sums up parenthood pretty well.

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Yes, we're even mopping the walls!

I have posted snippets about this on Facebook, and I am planning on one big, giant post here with all the information (once I have all the information!). But after our baby boy was diagnosed with lead poisoning, ridiculous amounts of cleaning are part of our daily life. Lots and lots of cleaning, trying to avoid the "poisoned" areas of our house, and soon--lots and lots of painting. That's all manageable. Replacing the windows will be a bigger problem. But for now--cleaning!
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Another photo from our visit to the Shedd Aquarium. I stared at these frogs for a while to make sure they were breathing, because they looked artificial.

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When we went to Chicago for WorldCon, we also made a visit to the Shedd Aquarium. I could have done with an even more awesome jellyfish exhibit, but I did manage to get a couple of nice shots despite challenging lighting conditions and fast-moving jellyfish.
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It's so hard to believe he's already one year old! Forget that--it's so hard to believe it's been a year since he was born! Parents always say that kids grow up so fast, but that's not all. Everything goes faster, as if the mere act of having a baby accelerates the world's rotational velocity.

I have a big long post planned about all the things he's up to and getting into, but that may or may not ever happen. Time's short, you know.


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Abra Staffin-Wiebe

March 2019

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