cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)
The last couple of weeks have been very busy with All The Things, especially last week. In my writing log, I wrote down the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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


P.S. Oh, and I bollixed up my left knee badly enough that it's been hurting constantly for the last few days. I'll try taking it easy for a week and see if it gets better on its own. If it's still this bad in two weeks, a doctor visit is probably in order, and who knows what else. I do not need this.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

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)
I am not a big fan of the heat, as the latest 85+ degree Minnesota "heat wave" shows. Tooo hot.

Cassius' 3-year doctor appointment was this week. He's exactly 1 meter tall and weighs just under 30 lbs. This puts him in the bottom 1% for BMI, which makes us very concerned parents. Not much we can do that we aren't already, though. It's just--I desperately want to fatten him up. The doc also recommended getting him assessed for verbal problems (enunciation, basically--his vocabulary is fine) and for pronation in his feet. No shots this year! Still waiting to hear back about test results. In general, however, it was a cranky-making doctor's visit.

Oh, and I got back the results from the parapertussis test: negative. So no, I no longer have an active infection, but I'm still coughing and dealing with symptoms, and I may continue to do so for another two months. Grr.

Here, have a random water droplet photo. Waterfowl feathers are neat.

I got to game again! It's been so long, I had to hunt around to find my dice. But I found them. Except for my D4s, which Phil had stolen. And I got to go out for a few hours and play a Deadlands one-shot. It was a lot of fun, although my character was a mad scientist with an impulse control problem that made it difficult for me not to "accidentally" kill all the other party members. Le sigh. And I had to leave a bit early, because I'd been there from 1:30 PM to 6:00 PM, and I really couldn't stay away from Theia any longer.

We got important house stuff worked on! My plan was to paint the back hallway, which is lead paint that has chipped slightly and is generally in need of remediation paint before I will feel comfortable with my kids walking on the stairs in that area again. I got as far as cleaning everything for the painting, and then while I was out at a movie with Electra, Phil taped up all the things that needed taping and got 3/4s of the first coat done. So awesome! He also said that painting there was basically hot-boxing yourself.I'm not allowed to do it, because I'm still breast-feeding and so what I get, the baby gets. Progress is great. Progress made by not-me while I was out seeing a movie? Even better!

Good read: The Girl With All the Gifts.
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.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

A pretty photo of something I'm not allowed to have anymore. (I'm on a no-dairy, no-soy diet to figure out if my infant daughter is allergic.)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

At her 1-week doctor's appointment, Theia weighed in at 9 lb., 3 oz., more than regaining her birth weight. She also measured at 21" long. These measurements put her at the 99th percentile for height, the 94th percentile for weight, and the 55th percentile for BMI. In other words, she's right where we would expect and want her to be.

Breastfeeding is going well. She's a hungry little lamprey, feeding about every hour and a half while she's awake, and generally not sleeping much more than three hours before waking up to feed. My breasts have mostly adjusted to the notion, so the starting-nursing discomfort is generally fading away.

Changing poopy diapers on a girl baby remains a special kind of horrifying. Phil went on strike for a few days after there were new developments because she still has some of my hormones circulating through her system.

Sleeping...well, yes, she does a lot of that during the day. I could have guessed from her movement patterns in the womb that she was going to be a night owl (like me, her dad, and her brother), but I wasn't braced for the couple of hours of awake time that she wants to have every night between about 1 AM and 4 AM. This is when she will rest her eyes as long as I'm cuddling her, but no, she has no interest in sleeping in her cradle. She does tend to have a good sleep interval before and after, though. Hopefully, her schedule will readjust as she gets older. During the day, she has a long morning nap and a long afternoon nap, and then smaller naps mixed with short periods of alertness/cuddle time.

Cassius is doing really, really well with having a little sister. There have been only a couple of, "What do you *mean* I can't hurl myself on top of her to cuddle?!" meltdowns. Generally, he's doing great at being gentle (this translates as only petting her head with one finger and not touching her face or pressing on her). He likes to cuddle against my arm and provide commentary while she nurses. He hasn't really exhibited any jealous behavior, but of course, he's been getting attention from both me and Phil--and in the first week, from me and Phil and Grammy Staffin. We'll see how things go next week, once Phil's back to working half-days.


And how am I doing? Pretty well. I didn't take any damage from giving birth (must have rolled a natural twenty), so most of my aches and pains are of the "body trying to reshape itself back to normal" variety. I'm having the usual post-partum bleeding and cramping (though *way* less painful than it was the first time around). There's some lingering soreness around the epidural site; it's getting better. Most of the punched-in-the-solar-plexus feeling has subsided, but my back still starts to ache if I stand for too long. Phil's home to watch the kiddos if I need a nap, so I'm not sleep-deprived (yet) despite Theia's witching hour. Beyond taking care of the kids, not a whole lot else is getting done around the house, but that's kind of to be expected. We're managing. We've gotten some things done, like finally sorting through the ridiculous amount of hand-me-down baby clothing we have. We've been basically living off of Thanksgiving leftovers for the last week and so haven't had to deal with trying to cook with constant child and infant interruptions. I'm down 25 pounds already. Breastfeeding gives me ample time to catch up on all my reading on my Nook, and Netflix streaming on my computer is a good distraction while I'm trying to rock a baby back to sleep at oh-dark-hundred.

I may get a little cabin fever in the next few weeks, but I don't want to take Theia with me and go places just yet, because a) freezing cold, and b) her immune system won't be doing much until she's about 6 weeks old, so we want to keep her away from crowds. And I can't go very long away from her, since I'm her portable feeding system. Sadly, this means I may miss out on most of the holiday festivities.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
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!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Because water lily! Taken on a Labor Day weekend trip to Como Zoo.

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

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.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)

From our recent trip to the Minnesota Zoo. This photo is all about the paw.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (shadow)
Humans are primates, you say?


I suppose there's a good reason his latest nickname is Monkey.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
That right there? Yeah, that sums up parenthood pretty well.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

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!


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

March 2019

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