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Improbability is in the Details
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal
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Thoughts in Passing

I'm in the middle of a massive hack-and-slash on a finished novella project, cutting 29,200 words down to 25,000 so that I can submit it a shorter version to a particular place. That means I need to cut enough words that they would make a good-sized short story all by themselves. I'm about a quarter done. I approach this project in the spirit of taking out everything that I possibly can, from adjectives to not-entirely-critical character interactions to whole scenes that can be summarized or omitted.

That is not how I normally approach editing. I don't believe that cutting down to the bone is best for every story. You can lose a lot of your personal voice and style that way. (I still cut my fair share of weasel words and plot going nowhere and bits that only exist to get from Point A to Point B, I assure you!)

I've also cut a couple hundred words from my "finished" long version. Maybe 1/10th of the time, the shorter version is stronger, not just different. I don't recommend gutting your story simply to see what works better that way, but it's a good exercise to try once. Save the original version first!

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

I held back on announcing this, because reasons, but I have a new publication to announce! My short story, "Miracle Material," appears in Mother's Revenge: A Dark and Bizarre Anthology of Global Proportions.

In this mixed genre group of eco-tales, thirty-two authors from around the globe offer up some lessons in why it's wise to be kind to Mother Earth. Read and take heed. Your very life may depend on it!


 
And if you're in Minneapolis, next Sunday I'm leading a free workshop on PoV (Point of View). Come and say hi!


Meetup event: https://www.meetup.com/MinnSpec/events/239675908/

(Read the rest of this Aswiebe's Market List update here: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/archive2017.html#081617)
Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1120344.html on Dreamwidth.org.
2nd-Aug-2017 10:24 pm - Greedy Pigs Review

The concept of the Sin du Jour novella series is that there is a catering company that works specifically for the high-powered supernatural set. Yes, the dietary requirements and ingredient quests are as hair-raising as you might imagine. It's also great to see a behind-the-scenes look at a (highly unusual) catering company and what the day-to-day life of the people who work there is like.

 

In Greedy Pigs, the caterers find themselves double-booked for two inauguration ceremonies, one human, one not. They have to adjust on the fly. Meanwhile, one of their own is not acting like himself. It all comes to a head at the inaugurations. There is a certain amount of commentary on our political system, but not to a degree that should push away readers who are sick of the political news cycle right now.

 

This book pays off on a lot of the interpersonal stuff that was set up previously in the series. To which I said, "At last!" The motivation for the main plot depends on it. Although this series is intentionally episodic, you probably want to read at least the previous book (Idle Ingredients) before this one. I recommend the Sin du Jour series if you're interested in something that's funny, dark at times, a little crass, and rooted in the lives of everyday working folks. Most of the books stand alone quite nicely.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I'm a fan of Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace's Ditchdiggers podcast about writing, so I went into this story hearing his voice reading it and also with a lot of outside context about the author, which changes things a bit.


Read if: You like stories with working class protagonists.
Skip if: You hate novellas or politics.
Length: Novella.
First Published: Tor.com Publishing, May 2017.
Link: https://www.amazon.com/Greedy-Pigs-Sin-Jour-Affair-ebook/dp/B01N5EUN84
How'd I get it: Won it in a Goodreads giveaway.

Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1120192.html on Dreamwidth.org.
Thoughts in Passing

As a panelist at conventions, I am fortunate enough to be put in a position where I need to intensively study a certain story-related question. It changes my reading list. It changes the way that I read my reading list. It changes the way I read things that are not on my reading list. Maybe you're not on any panels. Maybe you don't go to conventions. You can still benefit from a narrow focus on the topic. Find a nearby convention, choose a panel that you're interested in, and plan as if you're going to be talking on that panel: questions, observations, and reading lists. You may be surprised by how much you gain from this.

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

I recently wrapped up a short writing project. I've gone back to working on my novel(s), except the next 6 weeks are full of conventions, related convention panel prep, and teaching classes. Classes! I am teaching classes! If you are interested in these, register. If someone you know in the Twin Cities area would be interested, please pass this information along. Register now!


Read more:
Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1119830.html on Dreamwidth.org.
12th-Jun-2017 11:06 am - Books and Panels and Classes, Oh My!

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 (https://www.loft.org/shop/product_detail/2/classes/998/stealth_characterization_via_setting/) explores creating characters indirectly, through how you construct and describe their surroundings.

 Writer ... With Kids: Finding Time to Create (https://www.loft.org/shop/product_detail/4/adult_class/1015/writerwith_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.

 Description:

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

 

Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1119569.html on Dreamwidth.org.
16th-May-2017 02:13 pm - Minneapolis Folks!
Come to my experimental SF performance tonight! Kieran's in downtown Mpls, doors at 8 PM, I'm performing after 9 PM.

Inspiration: chance operations, love and loss, many worlds hypothesis, alternate timelines, wave function collapse, and choice strategies.

http://www.wordsprout.org/the-not-so-silent-planet-a-speculative-open-mic.html

Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1119250.html on Dreamwidth.org.
New Aswiebe's Market List update! Unshattering wants SF/F/Lit leading to a better future, pays $.10/wd. All the details and more: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1119124.html on Dreamwidth.org.
16th-Apr-2017 04:26 pm - Rosie Revere Engineer Review
Rosie Revere, Engineer is the best children's book I've read to my kids in a couple of months. It's about a little girl who stopped showing people the things she invented after she got laughed at. It is funny in the absurd way that kids love, it has detailed illustrations that can be studied for long periods of time, and it gives great reinforcement to the idea that failure is only a reason to try again, better. My son bonded really hard with the girl in the book because he wants to be an engineer, too.




Originally posted at http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1118908.html on Dreamwidth.org.
16th-Apr-2017 04:21 pm - Test
Testing cross-posting to LJ. Testing. Testing. Testing.

Crossposted from http://cloudscudding.dreamwidth.org/1118644.html on Dreamwidth.org.
21st-Mar-2017 11:33 am - Prosthetic Daughter by Nin Harris
Beautifully written. Time travel, betrayal, revenge, family, love, cybernetics, and multiple identities, linked together into a coherent story that shoots ideas into your skull like bullets.

Read if: You're interested in a multi-layered story, and I do mean multi.
Skip if: You dislike spiral structure stories.
Length: Short story, 5,881 words.
First Published: Clarkesworld, Feb 2017. A good issue, this one!
Link (FREE!): http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/harris_02_17/
How'd I get it: I too clicked on a link.
Where'd I read it: In bits and pieces on the computer.
19th-Mar-2017 10:49 pm - The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
I loved this book. I am ALL GOOD with flawed female protagonists who are proficiently violent. I am also a third culture kid like the protagonist (I even grew up in Chad and frequently visited Cameroon, featured in this book). It didn't give me linguistic superpowers, although I can pick up languages pretty well, but many of the character references clicked with me as being "done right."

Reading other reviews, I'm seeing a lot of comparisons to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I disagree. That book is drenched in and fueled by sexual violence. This one isn't. The protagonist was raped in the past, but it is described in pretty much just those words. It isn't dwelt on, and it isn't described in detail. Judging by the description of later books in the series, sexual violence may become a theme, and so I will approach with care.

Read if: You enjoy female protagonists who feel no need to conform to pressure to be "nice" or likeable.
Skip if: You avoid books where you feel the protagonist has unrealistic skills.

When did I read it: In one gulp, over the course of a morning in which I should have been doing other things--and wasn't.
How did I get it: From the library, after BookBub brought it to my notice.
Length: Novel
Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004IK8PWS
First published: 2011
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