Reviews of my Mythos fiction – get more in my new collection!

I’m funding a new mini-collection of Mythos fiction, and paying for a couple of college classes. Please go to my fundraising page for more info, including rewards. I’ve got deadlines, so this won’t be open long.

If you haven’t read my work before, I’ve collected some reviews of the two previously-printed stories that will appear in the collection…

Reviews of “No Hand to Turn the Key”, in Chaosium’s STEAMPUNK CTHULHU

No Hand to Turn the Key by Carrie Cuinn tells the tale of an alternate future where humanity has been wiped out by Mythos horrors leaving only automatons behind to defend what remains of Earth’s human legacy. The result is a touching tale of sacrifice and hope in the face of overwhelming odds. – Alan Loewen

Imagine if just the clockwork servitors of our own creation was all that was left. Humanity is gone and only they are there to try and preserve the knowledge that might save themselves, and might have damned humanity. [This story is] absolutely fantastic. – Amazon

Among the standout stories for me was Carrie Cuinn’s “No Hand To Turn the Key”. – David, Goodreads

Reviews of “CL3ANS3”, in Chaosium’s ELDRITCH CHROME

“CL3ANS3” is a beautiful story from Carrie Cuinn. Ms. Cuinn’s voice and the picture she was able to weave inside my mind was absolutely amazing, her prose was top-notch. – Brian Murphy (MU Podcast)

“CL3ANS3” by Carrie Cuinn: This story has a really cool concept about a future where all data has to be organized and that organization is done through a kind of virtual reality (it is cyberpunk after all). Carrie Cuinn does a great job of building a great world of CHARACTERS here, like Orson Scott Card did in Ender’s Game (yeah, the guy’s politics suck but he can write some amazing characters). I bring up ‘Ender’ because there are scenes in the story where the protagonist sits down and interacts with other ‘sorters’ in a kind of cafeteria and it just has this realistic feeling to it. The writing is very solid and when the virtual world starts to become tainted by Eldritch happenings the story delivers. – D. Anderson

The anthology had been described to me as ‘Cyberpunk Cthulhu’, which threw me off originally, until I sneaked a peek at Carrie Cuinn’s CL3ANS3, which is, in my opinion, the pivotal point in this anthology and its biggest sell. – Konstantine Paradias

Paradias wrote a full review elsewhere online, which says in part:

CL3ANS3 took me by surprise. Primarily, because this is one of those stories that make excellent material for experimental animation short films that have this rarely-seen alienating feeling to them. The world outlined by Carrie Cuinn in this short story is clinical, sterilized and strange beyond belief. Its main character might be an antisocial, objective narrator but the rest of the people occupying the setting aren’t all that better off.

This story forced me to do a double-take to pinpoint exactly what bothered me about it so much and guess what: it’s not the Lovecraftian Horrors, not in and of themselves. I think that this was perhaps the point that Cuinn was trying to make: the scary, strange future that waits just around the corner, its people distant and antisocial, scared more of each other than the things lurking just beyond the world.

Read the rest of his review here.

Ube Waffles! (with pictures and recipe)

The other week, Michi was talking about waffles on Twitter. Specifically, she mentioned having (and now, missing) ube-flavored waffles at a Filipino food festival, and though I’d never had ube in a waffle before, I immediately craved them too.

Ube is a purple yam popular in Filipino desserts. It has a subtle spice flavor, like a potato grown in cinnamon dirt. I’ve had it in cake, ice cream, and of course, in halo-halo, the best of all summer treats. But, I’d never thought to put it into a waffle. Worse, I rarely see it in my little college town at all, even though I go to the local Asian market often enough that the owner teases me – every time – about how I need to try cooking Chinese food instead of Filipino. I hadn’t seen ube extract, which is what most people cook with in the US. I thought, well, I could get it on Amazon…

Just in case, I went over to the market and surprise! I walk in and she immediately tells me they got a little batch of fresh ube that morning. We were go for waffles!

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Ube uncooked: sliced open (top left) and peeled (bottom right)

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WILL WRITE MYTHOS FOR SCHOOL (Buy my new fiction, help me pay for college!)

Pre-order my new Mythos mini-collection through GoFundMe

Some of you know that the last few years, life has been extra difficult. I’ve had a bad landlord, a car crash, medical problems, lost my day job… with each new issue, I’ve struggled to keep my bills paid and care for my son, who has a severe speech disorder and special needs.

The overarching theme lately has been money: I don’t have enough of it. We’re officially living in poverty, my son and I, so when something happens, we can’t pay to fix it. I need a bigger income; I need to be more employable. Rather than continuing to need help over and over again, I went back to college in hope of finally getting my BA, and finding solid work.

tuition

Behold, my tuition bill!

Right now, I’m paying for it myself. I currently owe for one of my Spring classes (I paid for the rest) and one class this Summer. Together, that’s almost $1300. I’ve set the fundraiser for $1500 to cover the fees GoFundMe will charge, and to pay for one textbook this summer.

Paying for school is something I have to do on top of rent and food and basic utilities. It’s a cost above what I have to pay for my medical expenses. With thyroid surgery in two weeks, I don’t see any way to do it all. Plus, if I can’t pay for my classes by May 31, I won’t be able to register for Fall in time to get into classes only availble one time a year. My goal is to graduate with my AA in May 2017, before transferring for my BA, so this should be my one chance at Fall-only classes. I need to get into them.

As a reward, when I’ve met my goal, I’ll release an ebook of five Mythos fiction short stories to all of my backers, no matter how much you contribute. This will include two pieces previously published by Chaosium, that aren’t available anywhere else, and three new stories no one has laid eyes (or tentacles) on. I’m creating original interior art for the project, and the ebook package will include .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .PDF. There’s even reward levels if you want to get extra stuff back.

You can contribute because I’m a good person going through a hard time. You can contribute because you like my writing and want to see more of it. You can contribute because you haven’t had to roll a SAN check recently. No matter why you lend a hand, I appreciate you.

Thank you.

Carrie Cuinn

PS. If you’d rather contribute by PayPal, which doesn’t charge quite as much as GoFundMe, you can send money using this link . If you do, I’ll add it manually, so the total amount needed goes down.

#SFWAPro

Next up, surgery…

After a sonogram and two biopsies, we’ve confirmed that I have multiple thyroid nodules that have swollen one side of my thyroid to the size of a jawbreaker. It’s not visible from the outside; if it were a cosmetic issue, I could put it off, but my thyroid has grown inward, so it’s pressing against my vocal cords and throat. It doesn’t keep me from eating yet, but my voice has gotten a little froggy, I get sick more often lately, and when I’ve been sick, it’s taken longer to recover (I had bronchitis last fall for more than 8 weeks, for example.)

The biopsies showed that the largest one is benign (yay!) but growing, and there’s a smaller nodule that’s “suspicious”. Because of all that, I’ve scheduled surgery to remove that part of my thyroid.

This, plus finding out I’m anemic, explains a lot about my health and energy levels the last year or so. I’m taking supplements to correct the anemia now, and with the surgery, I should be in better shape. I hope. I have too much to do, and I’ve been struggling to manage it all. It’s a relief, in some ways, to know why: I’m not lazy, I’m not a failure, I’m not giving up. I have a documented medical reason for why I’m exhausted and uncomfortable and falling behind.

Still, sometimes I have to tell myself that over and over, and it doesn’t help. Excuses, excuses, what are you going to do about it? Next up, surgery, and then getting my life back on track, and moving forward.

I can’t accept anything less.

5 Hard Truths About Being a Published Writer

You’ve dreamed of being a writer, getting published, and finally – you’ve succeeded. Someone has paid money for your words, and they’re out in the world for people to read! Or, maybe you haven’t yet sold a story or novel, or you’re still writing for free on blogs and hoping that’s going to get you noticed. Either way, you aspire to greatness with your ability to turn a phrase. Here’s five things you definitely need to know, but probably no one has told you:

  1. You’re still going to be rejected. No matter how many sales or awards or accolades you have, you will still not have them all. You’ll submit work that won’t be purchased. You’ll write beautiful prose that doesn’t get nominated for an award, or doesn’t win even if you make it onto the ballot. You’ll be left out of articles talking about the books to read this summer, or you won’t be invited to attend a conference, or be on a panel. You will always be striving for acknowledgement you don’t consistently get.
  2. You will have fans who care more about being able to say you’ve talked to them than your writing. If you’re active online at all, you’ve seen the superfans: folks that make a point to say hello to their favorite writers each day, or buy them gifts, or take photos at conventions and post them around everywhere. Often they’re tangentially related to the publishing industry (reviewers and bloggers are easy positions for these people to get into, which gives them access to authors). The circle of authors they cultivate can be large or small, but changes based on who’s popular at the moment. These aren’t the people who buy and read everything you’ve ever written (that’s the kind of fan we all want); the superfan wants to be seen with you, in person or online, because “knowing” you gives them legitimacy. Instead of focusing on their own writing career, they get their name out their by attaching it to yours.
  3. Other writers will find success that has nothing to do with their writing. An activist working in a certain community may find a strong base of readers from that community who are buying their books more for the person who wrote them than the quality of the work. A short story author may be getting nominated for awards because they’re super adorable and check off the “social justice” box of the week. A blogger-turned-author may have riled up a group of angry readers who will buy their books as a form of protest against another writer or type of people. A writer with a shtick that is cute or fun or bizarre will momentarily get all the buzz, even if their writing kind of sucks.
  4. How you look matters. White men sell more than anyone. Period. For everyone else, you need to be a good writer, but you also kind of need to be attractive. It’s a fact that publishers look at the quality of work but also look at whether they can sell you as a person. If you’re a woman, it helps to be thin, pretty, and young (unless the sort of writing you do appeals to readers who want to see you as a wise crone, in which case, you need to be older). If you’re a person of color, you need to either be sexy or more often, if you’re a man, charming but non-threatening. Unless they’re marketing you to an “ethnic” audience, it helps to have a white partner if you’re a person of color. Unless you’re primarily writing gay fiction, queer men are okay – if they’re attractive – but queer women should have a male partner. Trans people should be single. White women can be overweight if they write fantasy or romance or YA, but not SF or other genres. Women of color who are overweight will usually only find success in lit, and only if they’re writing about their weight, or being a woman, or being a fat woman. (You can become overweight after you gain popularity, but you need to start out thin.) All of this to make you palatable to a wider audience of readers who might be uncomfortable with the idea that queer and trans folk have sex, or that people of color might want to talk about something other than being a person of color, or that fat women might still be sexy or smart or great writers. And this isn’t just something that publishing companies enforce – society does it, too. (See above about who gets fans/awards.)
  5. Nearly all writers get paid less than minimum wage for writing, and you have to spend money to enjoy the benefits of writing successfully. The majority of people who write will never sell their writing. The ones who do often don’t sell all of it. What sells almost never makes enough to compensate you more than a few dollars for every hour you put into writing it. (Often, it’s a few cents for each hour.) Even when you sell a story to a pro market, for example, that couple of hundred dollars for that 5000 words may represent weeks, months, or years of writing and revisions. If you got lucky, and sold a story that you wrote all at once, in a day, it still doesn’t compensate you for all the stories you didn’t sell, and the years or decades that you spent learning to write in the first place. With a very few exceptions – writers who have been working for years and finally making decent money at it – everyone who writes for themselves for more than a few hours a week has a spouse/family who supports them. Once you do sell your work, start getting nominated for awards or invited to conventions, you need to spend your own money to attend those events. Sometimes, you’re given free admittance to the event, but even at awards ceremonies that’s not always true. You’ll definitely have to pay for your transportation, which can mean traveling to another state or another country. You’ll have to pay for your hotel and food and socializing once you’re there, because what’s the point of going if you don’t interact? Even if you are a guest of honor at a major convention, with your hotel and food covered (which, sorry, happens to only a few people a year) you have to pay in another way: you’re expected to work the convention, by attending panels and events that the con decides for you, and you’re expected to go to dinner with con runners, who you may not know or like, because they’ve essentially paid you to be there. Of course, you’re not actually paid, but even at the highest levels of being a successful author, a convention will treat you like an employee if they have to pay for you to be there, regardless of whether you’d have attended without their invitation. They won’t say it, though. It’ll just be that they want you everywhere they tell you to be because they’re such big fans.

If you read all of this an immediately think, “That’s it, I’ll never be successful, I want to quit writing,” then you should. If you’re in it primarily for the fame and the fans, because you think being a “successful” writer validates you in some way, or it’s how you think you’ll finally have friends and a girlfriend who adore you, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get what you want. Being a writer for the accolades is fine if you are honest with yourself – lots of people do things more to get attention than because they love the thing. I’m not judging you. But it’s hard to get anywhere as a writer if you’re starting out with anything less than all the privilege possible. If you’re a woman, a person of color, queer, trans, or non-binary; if you’re insecure or overweight or poor, it’s hard. Unbelievably hard. There are so many easier ways to get recognition and respect. If you think writing will finally make you cool, you need to quit.

If you read all of this and think, “Fuck that, I’m going to write because I’m going to write even if no one reads it,” then don’t quit. Don’t give up. Go into writing as a career with your eyes open. Learn about the community and how publishing works and if you need to agitate for change, do that. Show the world that you’re so talented and brilliant that they’ll have to pay attention. But don’t blame anyone else if you don’t feel welcomed to the table, or if Cute Girl X has a bunch of twitter followers and you don’t. Do the work anyway. Yes, it’s hard and expensive and depressing and your popularity will wax and wane, but you knew that going in. Yes, it’s difficult to find time to write and when you have to work a day job and maintain relationships and write as well, it’s nearly impossible at times. You will feel like a failure. You will actually fail at times. Like with a lot of art, you may only find popularity after you’re dead. But you knew that going in

Here’s a secret truth: If you can look at the minefield that is trying to be a successful writer and know you’ll get hurt traveling through it, it’s easier. It’s not personal, even when it feels personal. It’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone. You’ll probably need to change things from where you are to get to where you want to be, or you’ll need to fight to change the world to fit you, but that’s true of everything. If you think it’ll be easy and straightforward, you’ll be horribly let down. But if you know how hard it is and you put in the work anyway, the success you do have can feel amazing, and earned.

Because it will be.