For the last part of 2016, I was posting three good things daily on Facebook. It helped my mood, and it helped me notice good things despite stress and sickness. I wanted to keep doing something like this. The plan is to post 10 good things weekly on Monday. This one is a little late. Oops!
The kids went back to kindergarten and preschool on Tuesday! This was a surprise, because my calendar had contradictory information so I was braced for a whole 'nother week of them both being home all day long. Surprise!
1. Theia was happy to go to preschool. Hopefully this means the long break has allowed her to forget that she was not wanting to go for a while.
2. I got summoned for jury duty! This has never happened before. I'm excited.
3. Cardinals in winter. Worst camouflage. Best bird-watching. The certified urban wildlife habitat beside Cassius' school bus stop has three or four pairs of cardinals living in it or nearby, so I often see them flying across the street, perching on snow-covered branches, and otherwise being photogenic.
4. Phil got me a new battery for my laptop. He used some of his Amazon reward from work to help *me* do my work. :) Now I'll have more than 10 minutes of battery life again. Such luxury!
5. I got the My Little Ponies of the Apocalypse t-shirt that I ordered as my reward for hitting a weight loss benchmark (thanks, pneumonia!). The kids think the t-shirt is of pirate ponies.
6. I finished the final draft of my high fantasy novella, "The Unkindness of Ravens," and submitted it to Tor.com. Yay! That is the most rewritten piece I've ever created. It's about 29,000 words long, and only about 10,000 of those words are from the story I started with when I decided to do this. And there I was, thinking that all I would need to do was change the beginning and ending a bit and add a few thousand words. Ha.
7. Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest contacted me out of the blue, to ask MinnSpec to spread the word about the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop. I enjoy reading his blog, so that was pretty cool! Also, for pity's sake people. Have a website, and put a contact form on it!
8. I went back to the gym for more than just the sauna! It's been a while because The Sickness meant I couldn't breathe well enough to exercise. Saturday I did a yoga class, and it felt great.
9. First sale of 2017--a reprint sale of an eco-horror short story to an upcoming anthology. Huzzah reprint sale!
10. I started Project: Clean All The Things. Picking up went on my Not-To-Do List while I was cramming to get "Unkindness" finished, so I promised I'd spend the first two weeks after finishing it using my regular writing time to CLEAN (and catch up on emails).
It's time for ... drumroll ... the annual awards eligibility post! This year I only have one thing, so it's easy. And it's a short story, so it's also easy to read!Escape Pod
published "In Their Image" in February 2016. You can read the story or download the MP3 here: http://escapepod.org/2016/02/04/ep519-in-their-image/
This is a sci-fi story about religions on alien planets and finding your purpose. It contains philosophy, fuzzy pink murderbears, and good intentions.Readers say:
"just that fantastic"
"... Speaker for the Dead which this reminded me strongly of, in a good way."
"What a great story about social pigeonholing. I could write stuff about how much that happens in real life, but it would come over as preachy, and one of the (other) great things about this story is that it isn't preachy. "
"Great fodder for discussion, especially among the inquisitive and open-minded."
Read it! http://escapepod.org/2016/02/04/ep519-in-their-image/
I did write a fair amount last year, but it was mostly longform and so it didn't result in many published short stories (although I've already sold 2 that will most likely be coming out in 2017). Stay tuned for posts about what I was writing last year and what's coming up next year.
(SFWA folks, Nebula Awards nominations are open until February 15th. The Hugo Award nominations are also open. You can nominate if you have/had a membership to the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Worldcons.)
What's your creative process?I write fiction, both novel-length and shorter forms. The bulk of my published work is short stories. I have slightly different creative processes, depending on what I'm working on.
I write down story ideas, elements, and characters as they come to me. I tag them by what kind of thing they are (genre, subgenre, theme, character, plot element, setting, etc.) and how high potential I think they are. That way I can find specific ones again.
I always need to figure out what the (at least) two plotlines of the story are before I can begin to outline. I start with an overarching "big plot" story arc idea. Then I need to figure out at least one personal story arc. This is where I start to get ideas about the characters and gender, culture, societal roles, etc. Setting and worldbuilding usually occur organically during the research and writing process.
When I want to write a new short story, I usually look at current open calls for themed submissions, research the editor's personal tastes and the publication, and see if anything connects with an existing short story idea or an idea that occurs to me as I read the open calls.For novels, I usually go in with a Really Big Idea and do a lot of research and snowball/spiderweb method brainstorming by hand before I start linear plotting.I outline by hand in my notebook. The book- or story-length outline is relatively short, usually only a few pages. I outline each scene in more detail immediately before writing it. At about the 1/3-1/2 point I usually have to stop and tear the big plot apart and entirely redo it. Sometimes this involves extensive rewriting of what was already written. After writing, I gather as many critiques as I can get and work through making revisions. Then I start submitting. I often make significant changes depending on what editorial feedback I receive or what publication I am targeting (for short stories). Some of those are only for submitting it that one time, but others will permanently change the story that I submit from that point forward, whether it is to the same editor or a different one.
I listen to several writing podcasts and occasionally read articles/newsletters (less so now that I don't have as much reading time). When I find a really good podcast, I save it. When I find a useful article, I keep the link on my "Shiny or Useful" page at http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/shiny.html. I plan to use short stories more as practice labs for working on some of these techniques, but I rarely do so now.
For short stories, I also figure out two more elements before I start writing. One is what thing will be useful or awesome new knowledge to other people. The other is what Big Question, if any, I want to bury deeply in the subtext.
Four Twin Cities authors discuss being women in science fiction and writing female protagonists, along with a brief reading!
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1805144003095811/
Magers & Quinn event page: https://secure.magersandquinn.com//index.php?main_page=eventAbout the panelists:
Victorya Chase is a writer and educator living in the the Midwest where she works in medical education teaching the importance of narrative competency and understanding the various cultural and personal stories at play in the exam room. Her writing has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Lamplight, and The Unlikely Journal of Entomology. She is the author of Marta Martinez Saves the World.
Kelly Barnhill writes novels for children and short stories for adults and poetry that she whispers in the dark when no one is listening. Her first novel, The Mostly True Story of Jack, received four-starred reviews, and her second, Iron Hearted Violet, received a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her most recent novel is The Witch’s Boy. Kelly lives on a city street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a field and a creek behind her house. A coyote runs by every morning at six a.m. and a heron flies over her yard just before the sun sets on slow summer evenings. Kelly is a fast runner and a steady hiker and a good camper. She also makes delicious pie. She has received grants and awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Loft. She has three very smart kids and one very smart husband and a dog who she believes might be one thousand years old. No one can say for sure. (The dog, incidentally, is very smart too.)
Abra Staffin-Wiebe has sold stories to publications including Jim Baen's Universe and Tor.com. She specializes in optimistic dystopian SF, modern fairy tales, cheerful horror, liquid state steampunk, dark humor, and heartwarming grotesqueries. She spent several years living abroad in India and Africa before marrying a mad scientist and settling down to live and write in Minneapolis. Discover more of her fiction at her website, http://www.aswiebe.com/, or find her on the social media site of your choice.
Lyda Morehouse writes about what gets most people in trouble: religion and politics. Her first novel Archangel Protocol, a cyberpunk hard-boiled detective novel with a romantic twist, won the 2001 Shamus for best paperback original (a mystery award given by the Private Eye Writers of America), the Barnes & Noble Maiden Voyage Award for best debut science fiction, and was nominated for the Romantic Times Critic's Choice Award. She followed up Archangel Protocol with three more books in the AngeLINK universe: Fallen Host (Roc, 2002), Messiah Node (Roc, 2003), and Apocalypse Array (Roc, 2004). Apocalypse Array made the short list for the Philip K. Dick award. She lives in Saint Paul with her partner of twenty years and their amazingly adorable son, Mason.
I'm Abra Staffin-Wiebe, a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I've had short stories appear at publications including Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Odyssey Magazine. When not writing, I shoot photographs, collect folk tales, and wrangle two small children, three large cats, and one medium-sized mad scientist. You can find out more at my website: http://www.aswiebe.com/
Upcoming events and appearances
4th Street Fantasy Convention
St.Louis Park, MN, June 17-19, 2016
Bloomington, MN, June 30 - July 3, 2016
Big V's Saloon, St. Paul, MN, July 24, 2016
A delightful event filled with music, art, and dark fiction!
Submit It Now! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Short Stories
Teaching 2-day workshop at The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis
August 6th AND August 13th
Openings are limited. Register now!
MidAmeriCon II (AKA WorldCon 74)
Kansas City, MO, August 17-21, 2016
Other Places Online
Note: I don't usually post the same thing in multiple places, except for my market list updates, new publications, and other major news (writing-related or not).
http://www.aswiebe.com/ - 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 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-related posts these days.
Goodreads - Strictly business. This is my author account on Goodreads, not the personal one that I deluge with my to-reads.
I also occasionally post on Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and Ello.
I occasionally use this for more than just a recipe repository, I swear! Anyway, cabbage fried rice. I'm pretty happy with this recipe because both kids liked it as-is, including the extremely picky eater, and it got veggies (cabbage, carrot, onion) and protein (egg) into them. And I used the leftover lime cabbage from chicken fajitas with lime cabbage and avocado
, so winner winner leftovers dinner.
1 1/2 c. uncooked rice or about 3 c. cooked
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
2 c. chopped cabbage (about 1/2" squares), packed in the measuring cup
1 carrot, finely grated
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced or finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. fish sauceDirections
Cook rice with:
Meanwhile, chop, mince, beat, and measure all the things.
Heat oil over high heat in a wok or your largest pan. Add:
Stir constantly until vegetables are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add:
Stir for another minute.
Make a well in the center of the pan by pushing rice to the sides. Lower heat. Pour eggs into center and stir eggs constantly until mostly cooked. Then stir all the contents of the pan together.
Combine in a small bowl:
Drizzle sauce over rice and mix.
Pete Sutton's Sick City Syndrome
is now out! "But Abra," you may ask, "what does that have to do with you?" Well, Pete included some material from other authors in his book as part of the worldbuilding. My contribution, "Dear Miss Dilemma," is near the middle of Chapter 1. Conveniently, that is within Amazon's "Look Inside" free sample
. Go, read my piece, and get a taste of the rest of the book for free!
Dear Miss Dilemma,
I've followed your column for years, but I never expected to be writing to you for help! I hope you can advise me as to what I should do. I am very worried about my nai nai. She has always been an independent and strong-willed woman, but I know she feels lost since my grandfather's death. In her grief, she has become irrational.
She denies that my grandfather's ghost exists. Sick City Syndrome
is currently available as an ebook, with a paperback version to follow in late October.
About the book:
What if it was accepted that there really were ghosts? That mediums could actually talk to the dead. That your dearly departed continued to exist on a spiritual plane and that at certain places, or in certain people they could manifest?
Susan is living in a fog of grief after the death of her fiancé. When she is given a dossier that promises answers as to why he died she starts to investigate.
Susan is about to discover that the city is sick and things are much weirder than she ever imagined.
Thoughts in Passing
Now that the kids are in school (the littlest one for only three mornings a week), I'm struggling with the eternal question: how do I budget my time? Writing is one of those things where almost every aspect of it will expand to fill up however much time you give it. The famous productivity metaphor of putting the big rock in the bucket first doesn't work as well when instead of rocks and sand you have seven fire hoses! We'll see how it goes.
What I've been up to lately, writing-wise:
Presentations and novella revisions, mostly. I also heard back about my tiny part in a project that was tabled a while ago--because they needed to pay me because it's going ahead! That was a delightful surprise, like finding $20 in your winter coat when you take it out of storage. You'll hear more about this once it's out.Read more
This is a pretty basic recipe, a solid kid-pleaser (other people's kids, not mine) that's packed with vegetables. I'm writing it up because I had a recipe request and so needed to write it up anyway.
Use a 9x13 pan (no greasing needed) with tin foil. Recipe may be halved and cooked in a 9x9 pan, instead.
1 pkg. spaghetti
1 small to medium eggplant
3 Tbsp. butter
1 pkg mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 c. cottage cheese
1 c. Parmesan, shredded
3 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 c. spaghetti sauce, separated (2 + 1)
Cheese topping ingredients:
1/4 c. Parmesan, shredded
2 c. mozzarella, grated
1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, minced
Mince onion. Chop mushrooms. Mince garlic. Slice eggplant into thick rounds (about 1/3") and salt lightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Start salted water boiling in a large pot. When boiling, cook 1 package of spaghetti (about 8 cups prepared*) to al dente. Add a bit of olive oil to keep spaghetti from sticking together.
In your largest skillet, heat about 1/3" vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add eggplant slices and fry on each side until browned, turning every couple of minutes with tongs. When browned, remove and set on paper towels to drain.
Meanwhile, melt butter in medium skillet. Saute onions and mushrooms until reduced in size. Add garlic and keep sauteing for another minute or so. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add 2 c. spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, sugar, salt, and pepper. Combine.
Take cooled fried eggplant, lightly salt, and chop into 1" squares. Maybe eat a slice or two yourself because freshly fried eggplant is delicious.
In another bowl, combine all cheese topping ingredients. If necessary, use your hands to work it together.
Take 9x13 pan. Put 1/3 of cooked spaghetti in the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/2 the mushrooms and 1/2 the eggplant chunks. Pour 1/2 of egg combination on top.
Layer another 1/3 of spaghetti on top. Sprinkle with the rest of the mushrooms and eggplant. Pour the rest of the egg combination on top.
Put the rest of the spaghetti on top. Drizzle reserved 1 c. of spaghetti sauce across the top. Cover with the cheese topping.
Put tin foil on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove tin foil. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until done in the middle.**
Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
* I used leftover spaghetti that had been boiled with split habanero peppers to make it slightly spicy. Regular spaghetti should be fine, though.
** The potluck version had been reheated in the oven as well, so it may have been cooked for an even longer time.