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Improbability is in the Details
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal
Recent Entries 
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
Grimdark Magazine wants the darker, grittier side of fantasy and science fiction. All the details and more market list updates:
http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
14th-Mar-2017 09:49 pm - Home From the Funeral
We have returned safely home from our trip to Wisconsin for the funeral of Phil's grandmother, Romayne. There was (just our) family cabin time and snow and more travel and funeral and funeral ham with cheesy potatoes and then the kids besieging their teenaged cousins and (extended) family stories and drinking and family gossip and very poor sleep (because my three-year-old has been waking--and staying--up at 3 AM, and also that hideabed was awful) and the most country kitsch motel I've ever seen, let alone stayed at.

Today there was a lot of driving home. The kids had predictable we-hate-traveling meltdowns and less-predictable we-hate-chicken-nuggets meltdowns. We made it home, hitting the beginning of rush hour traffic. Then I found and cleaned up all six places the cats had puked and pooped around the house, changed the cat litter, and wrangled the kids through dinner and homework and baths and bed.

And nobody killed anybody.

And I am all disoriented due to travel and missing work/school days and daylight savings time starting, so I thought today was Wednesday and I was going to save this to post in Small Victories Wednesday. It is Tuesday. I am still very proud of this victory, though, so. Posted.
In which I continue reviewing things I have read, especially short stories.

Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty's Place Cafe
Naomi Kritzer--ahem, Hugo award-winning author Naomi Kritzer

This story does what it says on the tin. It is mostly about past events and what people need to get resolution, framed against the background of an imminent danger to the whole world.

Read if: You're looking for LGBTQ warm fuzzies.
Skip if: You only like your end-of-the-world stories extremely apocalyptic.
Length: Short story, 4,743 words.
First Published: Clarkesworld, March 2017.
Link (FREE!): http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_03_17/
How'd I get it: I too clicked on a link.
Where'd I read it: Over a breakfast of pancakes, which seemed quite appropriate!
Disclaimer: I know the author.



Of interest: Apparently, when the story was initially posted it cut off at the following paragraph. That ending would have left the story with a very different feeling!

It was dark out. Someone from the town had dragged out a box of fireworks left over from last year’s 4th of July and everyone took turns lighting them off, including me. (Mom had never let us have fireworks when I was a kid, because we might blow ourselves up, but if there was ever a time for YOLO, it’s when there’s a 4.3 kilometer asteroid on a collision
One of my resolutions (along with combing my hair in a reasonable time frame every morning) is to write reviews of what I read and like, so that I can remember these things later. Especially short stories, which I can't rate by simply clicking on a star rating on Goodreads.

Detroit Hammersmith, Zero-Gravity Toilet Repairman [Retired]
Suzanne Palmer

I enjoyed this story tremendously. A repairman who's seen it all sees something new. The story's lighthearted, heartwarming, and it scratches that itch for stories about ordinary working Joes on space stations.

Read if: You liked James White's Sector General books or that one episode in B5 with the repair guys.
Don't read if: You're looking for SF that breaks new ground.
Length: Novelette
First published: Analog, September 2016
Link*: https://www.amazon.com/Analog-Magazine-September-2016-Various/dp/B01J6BMCSQ
How'd I get it: A magazine giveaway in the SFWA suite at MidAmericon II.
Where'd I read it: In the sauna at the gym. I swear, I wasn't lightheaded. This is also how I discovered that the sauna heat will melt some magazine glue bindings.

* They don't have back issues available for purchase. Not even digital ones. Let people give you money!

Blind Spot publishes French and English SFF in translation (they go both ways), pays $.08/word. Details and more updates:

http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
14th-Feb-2017 10:36 pm - Recipe: S.O.S.
This recipe is for S.O.S. AKA Shit on a Shingle AKA Same Old Stuff AKA "chipped beef."

Ingredients

Boiling water
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. warm milk
1/2 jar dried beef (about 2.5 oz)
1/3 c. canned corn (or frozen, if cooked)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
black pepper
salt

Toasted bread
Butter

Directions

Put dried beef slices in a bowl. Pour boiling water over them. Let sit briefly and drain (this removes some of the extra salt). Chop into roughly 1/2" squares.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour all at once to form a roux. Whisk in warm milk, a little at a time, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in beef, corn, and cayenne. Heat through. Add black pepper and salt (optional) to taste.

Serve over buttered toast.
24th-Jan-2017 11:24 pm(no subject)
Last week was the end of my "catching up on email and socializing and house-cleaning" two week break after finishing a huge project. I dealt with some critical and overdue emails, I definitely got out of the house and saw people, and Phil claims the house looks better even though I can't see a difference, so I guess I'll call it a success. Time to write novels again, which is somewhat intimidating since I've been working on other projects for the last few months. Back to the grind!

Other good things...

I did the second Women in Sci-Fi and Writing Female Characters panel. There was pretty art (it took place in an art gallery in Lowertown) and cupcakes! I said some things that I hope sounded smart, sold two copies of my book, collected a couple of new email addresses for my newsletter, and was gifted with a batcat hat (okay, fine, it's a pussy hat, but I dislike that term even though I understand the reasoning) made by my dear Alis. I thought the event went pretty well.


New microwave! This one doesn't turn itself on and off at random intervals, so I am less worried that an electrical fault will make it burst into flames in the middle of the night when we are all sleeping. It displays actual numbers in the timer instead of weird dancing bars that look like the countdown on a Predator bomb. And it's black and silver, which Cassius thought was really awesome.

I realized that I had missed a deadline (a month ago!) and instead of giving up and being sad because I couldn't do a thing, I emailed people and asked if I could apply late, and they said yes! So I did!

I went to a living room concert and listened to awesome steampunk music, played with my camera and took photos, caught up with friends, made new acquaintances, and heard new jokes. It was good times. And seeing people appreciate my photos later is a nice egoboo.


Diabolical Plots (by David Steffen of the Submission Grinder) included my story in his recommendations for Hugo/Nebulas this year. Eeeee! I've never had someone recommend one of my stories for an award before, so this is a pretty exciting first.

Phil's award bonus from work came through, so I gave him a full grocery list without worrying about whether we had enough to cover the cost. Sometimes it's the small things.

Learned about bubble paragraphs and skipping stone backstory intro scene structure stuff. (Yup, Ginger, your name-coining has stuck!)

I cooked tater tot hotdish for the first time because Steph was posting looking for recipes and gave me a craving. It was delicious gloppy comfort food even if I'm the only one in the house who likes that kind of thing. Also, something about the tater tots makes my brain think it's acceptable eating for breakfast too. Ooookay, silly brain.

I have sparkly red fingernails, and they make me very happy. I don't have a lot of time for frivolous self-care stuff, so this is a special treat.


###

Bonus good things from the previous week, which I didn't post on time:

Making origami flowers and paper "rain" for Theia, and seeing how much she enjoyed playing gardener. (She was a gardener and I was the botanist telling her how flowers grow in this scenario, apparently.)

Insisting on taking the boy to see a healthcare professional, and having it be the right parental decision. This is not a good thing because he has strep (boo!), but because I never feel confident making this kind of call, so I'm glad I didn't waste our time and money.

Chatting with the spouse about publishing industry stuff, specifically novellas and how the markets for them are changing and why.

Writing a quick piece of micro-fic and submitting it minutes later. Fifteen words long!
24th-Jan-2017 10:53 pm - Recipe: Tater Tot Hotdish
As someone who's lived in Minnesota for over a decade, it was time. Time for tater tot hotdish, AKA tater tot casserole.



Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 lb. ground beef
2 large cloves garlic, minced
salt
pepper
1 1/2 cans french-sliced green beans
1 can cream of celery soup (condensed)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
frozen tater tots, about 2/3rds of a bag
1-2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

Requires: skillet, 9x13 pan.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt butter and vegetable oil in medium skillet on stove.
3. Saute onion until lightly browned.
4. Add ground beef and minced garlic. Saute until meat is brown.
5. Spread ground beef mixture in bottom of 9x13 pan.
6. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Layer 1 1/2 cans green beans on top of beef mixture.
8. Spread cream of mushroom and cream of celery soup on top of beans, attempting to distribute evenly.
9. Place one layer of tater tots on top.
10. Bake 50 minutes or until tater tots are browned.
11. Remove from oven. Sprinkle cheddar cheese all over tater tots. Put back in oven and bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
12. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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