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Improbability is in the Details
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal
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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.
22nd-Jan-2017 01:16 am - Market List Update
Retro Future Wants Love-Themed Pulp SF. All the details plus more market news: http://aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html.
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.
Ponies of the Apocalypse

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).
12th-Jan-2017 12:39 pm - Awards Eligibility Post!
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:
"thought-provoking"
"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.)
15th-Dec-2016 09:11 pm - New Aswiebe's Market List
Scout wants near-future hard SF, pays $.08/word. More details and other updates: http://www.aswiebe.com/writing/markets.html
14th-Nov-2016 07:13 pm - My Creative Process
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.

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.
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.
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=event

About 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.
2nd-Nov-2016 06:15 pm - Welcome!
Hello there!
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

CONvergence Convention
Bloomington, MN, June 30 - July 3, 2016

Térata Extravanganza!
Big V's Saloon, St. Paul, MN, July 24, 2016
http://www.meetup.com/MinnSpec/events/232398314/
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.

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