Changing Plans (for now)

After several months of working to build my freelance side gig into a reliable full-time business of my own, I was nearly to where I could at least pay my usual expenses without too much help, and on track to inch my way forward into financial stability. I was so close! I started making plans again. I felt hopeful, even with the rest of 2016 grinding us down.

On my birthday, at the end of November, I was mistakenly hit with a direct debit from my checking account for almost $1000. Because of that, I was hit with bank fees for everything that was paid out of my “overdraft protection” for the next two weeks, while I scrambled to make up the missing funds. I’ve done all of the paperwork and phone calls and I’m trying to get it back, but it turns out the payment — to my student loans — can be both accidentally taken and irretrievable at the same time. They’re investigating, they said, and I may get it back, in 90 days or so.

They’ll let me know.

Because of this, everything else fell apart, like I was juggling a dozen eggs and then someone sped up the music, until I couldn’t keep time with it anymore, and the pieces I was trying to balance suddenly crashed to the floor. I worked harder than ever, but it wasn’t enough, and ended the month with a cold that I am pretty sure was brought on by lack of sleep, and stress.

I don’t feel right yet, but I have to keep going.

Due to the unexpected financial problems I’ve had this month, I’ve decided not to attend any conventions until at least Fall 2018, or do any kind of travel. (This means I won’t be able to be at Boskone this February.)

I do miss everyone, and I do feel lonely and isolated here sometimes, since it’s just me and mine and we’re not tapped into the same kind of writing community I’ve gotten out of my FB/Twitter/convention relationships with other writers. But, as tempting as conventions are, I am still behind on rent and bills. I’m still worried every day, and that interferes with my work.

And, I’m not writing regularly because of all the stress — it turns out, I need to know my son is safe and my life is relatively stable before I can be “selfish” enough to write, since that’s a thing I do just for me.

I know me, though. I will get my money, my life, and my writing back on track, consistently. Then I can focus on getting back into the world.

I hope to see you all, out there, soon.

My 2016 Awards Eligibility Post

#sfwapro

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I have two short stories out this year that I loved and am proud of, for entirely different reasons, and which are also “award eligible”:

That Lucky Old Sun” Apex Magazine, Issue 80. January 2016.

I started out the year with an appearance in a big, pro-rate, well-known, solidly genre magazine. I love that my first appearance with Apex ended up being a solidly genre story which still flips Golden Age conventions on its head.

I write a lot about the people on the edges of, or left behind after, more “traditional” SF tropes have taken place. This one tackles McCarthyism and atomic age SF — stories about nuclear war and rocket ships and fleeing dying planets for new worlds — by focusing on just one little girl, and her mother, and one day of their life together.

Most readers got what I was aiming for, calling it “a very chilling tale”, and “a sad, lovely, hideous, wonderful comment on human folly” so what else could I ask for? (You can read more reviews of this story here.)

Ok, maybe I also am enamored of this review, which said:

“And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead,” and then suggested “it’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath.” (I cut out the spoilers but the whole review is fabulous if you want to read it after you’ve read the story.)

One Echo of an August Morning” Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal. Issue 1.3, Summer 2016.

This is a slightly strange, experimental, speculative fiction story set in the present (sort of), about parallel worlds, loneliness, and the nature of time. I loved being able to focus on details, to write about a woman truly living in the moment, and the fact that I got to extrapolate real science from a real math theorem that really exists.

I love math. And science. And writing science fiction that is solidly founded but still weird. Please take a look — you can also read this for free online — and let me know what you think.

A couple of other things I had published which you might have missed (but aren’t “award eligible”):

  • “If Wishes Were Feathers” (original fiction) appeared in the Art & Words show, October 2016, along with “Myth of the Mother Snake” (reprint poem, link goes to original appearance).
  • “Call Center Blues” (reprint) Luna Station Quarterly, September 1, 2016.
  • “Tomorrow I Will Bury My Dream In The Dirt and Let It Go” (poem) Wordgathering, September 2016.
  • Three SF haiku, Scifaikuest, May 2016 print issue and online.

And original work which is only posted here on my site:

I hope you found something of mine that you enjoy. If so, please let me know in the comments!

Thank you.

BRB, Working

stacks-of-paper

I’ve been so busy with Cuinn Edits, for more than two months now, that I’m starting to think I may have successfully turned my part-time side gig into a real full-time job, after only 18 months of struggling and hustling and selling myself. Fingers crossed it stays this way! (Even if it means I haven’t had time to write or do much else. Step one is to get stable, financially. Then I can worry about how to take time off for me.)

I’m going offline from now into early December to finish the current slate of editing projects for clients that have already booked me, and to do some end of year business upkeep.

Email if you need me.

On “Thanksgiving” and Being Thankful in Dark Times

Two weeks ago, the votes were tallied — not completely, but enough for those who are generally right about these things to guess at where the votes would end up — and the election was called for Donald Trump, making him the presumptive President-Elect.

It took no time at all, not even a full day, for him to start using that position  to line his own pockets, and for his alt-Reich supporters to come out in force, claiming his election as a victory of Nazism all across the land.

It’s pretty fucking hard, then, to look at Thanksgiving — a day when we traditionally celebrate that my white ancestors stole America from the indigenous population, by eating a giant turkey and a dessert made with orange squash — with any kind of thanks in my heart.

I’m not thankful that the President-Elect continues to treat his new position mainly as a way to make more money no matter who suffers, or that he’s appointing actual white supremacists, xenophobes, Islamaphobes, and homophobes to positions which mean that these vile, hateful, people will be making policies that affect all of America. I’m not thankful that centuries after we stole their land, the American government still can’t be bothered to treat Native Americans with the bare minimum of courtesy or respect, if there’s any way to gain by stealing from them again. I’m not thankful that of the hundreds of new reports of hate crimes across the country, the largest percentage is against immigrant children.

Children.

With all of this, what can I possibly be thankful for? What’s the point of being thankful at all? I think there is one, and it’s this: finding any joy at all, in these times, is a balm for the heart and mind. A day, or a moment, of peace and love refreshes us. So, if you have a reason to be thankful this week, go ahead. Enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. Use it, the way we use sleep to energize us for the next day. Be armored by it. Be strengthened against what’s coming next. And when you’re ready, use that strength to keep fighting.

My thankfulness this week is that I have a bright, funny, healthy, beautiful child, who tries his best to navigate his disability, and who loves us. It’s that I have a brilliant and brave partner who’s just as committed as I am to standing up for what’s right. It’s that my family might be small, and far away from everyone else this time of year, but we’re together, and we’re good.

My Letter to the Electoral College

I wrote to the electoral college, as many have done this week, without any expectations. I know the outcome of the election won’t change. But raising our voices is not about invalidating the election — it’s about reminding the world and our fellow Americans that not everyone has given up. I’m not going to sit back, secure in my white privilege, to “wait and see” if Trump is really “all that bad”. I’m not going to throw anyone else under the bus in hopes that I get one or two things out of this Presidency that I wanted.

I can be polite. I can be diplomatic. I will not be silent.

My letter is pasted below.

Dear Elector,

I understand that you hold an honorable position as a member of the electoral college, and are in a state which allows you to vote, if necessary, against your individual state’s Presidential choice in order to secure the right President for our nation. I am writing today to ask you to do just that.

I have voted in 24 years worth of elections. Sometimes, the candidate I thought best won, and sometimes, they didn’t. Sometimes, I’ve been thrilled with the election results, and other times, I’ve been surprised at my countrymen’s choices. Never before, though, have I felt the need contact members of the electoral college and ask them to reconsider their votes.

Donald Trump as an individual, and the collected entourage and appointees that come with him, are a direct and immediate threat to our American way of life. Already, only a week after the elections, where Hillary Clinton has overwhelmingly won the popular vote, Mr. Trump has acted against the interests of the people by refusing to divest himself of his companies before making political appointments and decisions. He has acted against our citizens by putting his bank account ahead of the Presidency, both in vocally supporting business in which he has a stake, and in the very presence of his children in transition meetings, since they are going to be running the Trump empire. Mr. Trump’s appointees are grossly racist, including Steve Bannon, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Jeff Sessions. They are grossly homophobic, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Ken Blackwell. These men have long histories of advocating hate and fear, and are actively working to rescind the civil rights we have only recently made significant progress in applying to all people, equally. Given legitimacy by the election, Mr. Trump has already promised to do much more, and much worse.

Add to that the clear and admitted interference in our election by Russian agents, and Mr. Trump’s clear and admitted ties to Russia (a foreign government)… These are just the things we know about, can prove, and are admitted to by Mr. Trump and his team. This doesn’t include the vast number of things merely threatened by Mr. Trump and his team which may not be acted on for another 6 months or so, once it’s too late to stop him.

I don’t expect enough of you to change your vote that Mrs. Clinton would be elected President instead. It is my hope that enough of you stand up, now, in the face of overwhelming proof of the danger Mr. Trump would bring to our country, and say “no”. Even a few, even as a protest, your dissent would show that we will not give blanket acceptance to Mr. Trump’s regime. We will not normalize hate. We will not allow a con man to prey on our fears for his own profit.

Alexander Hamilton said that you and the other members of the electoral college are “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.” I believe that, too. I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process. I am only asking for you to do exactly what your position was designed to do — defend our country against a demagogue who would make himself a tyrant and a king.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Carrie Cuinn

Follow Friday Open Thread: You Tell Me Who’s Saving the World

Last week, I recommended: American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Immigration Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center

This week, I want to know who you think I should follow. Tell me who’s got the best advice, the righteous and eloquent anger, the platform for change, the solid plan to defend our liberties, our citizens, and our planet.

I’ll update this post with suggestions as they come in.

Current novel in progress: Caudal Ballad

#SFWAPro

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Caudal Fin

I’ve settled on the novel project that most needs me right now, or at the least the one which won’t let me go. It’s Caudal Ballad, a title that might change later, but works for me at the moment.

I described the elevator pitch for it as “Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, if it was about ghosts and women, and was written by the Illuminati,” on Twitter and Facebook, and got several responses of, basically, “Take my money!” so I’m feeling pretty good about that.

Of course, an elevator pitch doesn’t tell much more than how marketing might sell it, so here’s the expanded version:

It’s the story of several people who find themselves in the same small NY college town when weird and bad things happen.

The story is told mostly chronologically, but not quite.

Interspersed with the tale are quotes and information about printing and typesetting in early America. These bits are relevant to the story. Eventually.

It’s about ghosts.

It’s about physics.

It’s about the astronomical theory of the multiverse.

It’s about what it’s like to be a woman trying to survive alone, at the margins of society, with no family or money or support.

It’s about the way we move through the world when we’re suffering from mental illness, or an excess of dead people, or both.

It’s about the relationship between townies who are stuck in place, and well-funded grad students who are in town to attend an Ivy, and aren’t limited by anything at all.

Some of the extra bits between chapters are architectural drawings, notes from town meetings a hundred years ago, or scribbles on the backs of postcards. Those bits are mostly relevant, too.

It’s about the invisible city on the other side of your town that, if you can get to, you’ll never come back from.

It’s about memories and self-destructive behavior and how “self-defense” doesn’t always look that way from the outside.

It’s about the monster under the bed.

It’s about sex and money and other kinds of power.

But mostly it’s about ghosts.

I’m going to post excerpts to my Patreon over the next few months as I finish up my current draft, and share thoughts about the process. If you want to follow along, and throw a few dollars my way so I can keep writing, please consider joining me there.

Follow Friday Five: The “Surviving A Trump Presidency” Edition

Last week, I recommended: LONTAR Journal, NatureFutures, Gamut, Reckoning, GlitterShip

This week?

This week, America elected Donald Trump as President, and the whole world shifted. Publishers, authors, editors, and other creatives and critics are still important (perhaps even more than before) and I’ll get back to sharing and promoting those folks next week. Today, I want to alert you to five groups that promise to stand with us in these trying times, and if necessary, stand between us and the Trump presidency.

Please share their information, and support them if you can.

From the ACLU website

From the ACLU website

The American Civil Liberties Union has worked to defend individual rights and the liberties guaranteed to us by the US Constitution, for almost 100 years.

Whether it’s achieving full equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people; establishing new privacy protections for our digital age of widespread government surveillance; ending mass incarceration; or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion; the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.

With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. to safeguard everyone’s rights.

Donate here.

Follow them on Twitter @ACLU

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was originally founded  in 1909 by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington, and W. E. B. Du Bois, to protect and support African Americans, but their mission has expanded to “ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.”

The NAACP’s goals are:

Economic Sustainability

A chance to live the American Dream for all: Every person will have equal opportunity to achieve economic success, sustainability, and financial security.

Education

A free, high-quality, public education for all: Every child will receive a free, high quality, equitably-funded, public pre-K and K-12 education followed by diverse opportunities for accessible, affordable vocational or university education.

Health

Health equality for all Americans including a healthy life and high-quality health care: Everyone will have equal access to affordable, high-quality health care, and racially disparate health outcomes will end.

Public Safety and Criminal Justice

Equitable dispensation of justice for all: Disproportionate incarceration, racially motivated policing strategies, and racially biased, discriminatory, and mandatory minimum sentencing will end. Incarceration will be greatly reduced and communities will be safer. The death penalty will be abolished at the state and federal level, as well as in the military. Learn more.

Voting Rights and Political Representation

Protect and enhance voting rights and fair representation: Every American will have free, open, equal, and protected access to the vote and fair representation at all levels of the political process.

Expanding Youth and Young Adult Engagement

Expanding the presence of youth consciousness in every aspect of the Association through significant attention to expanding engagement with key age demographic (1979 and after). Young adult engagement will be key in policy research, development and advocacy on all levels.

Donate here, and find your local chapter for more ways to get involved here.

Follow them on Twitter @NAACP

The National Immigration Law Center is dedicated to fighting for the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, and various other methods.

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants.

At NILC, we believe that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years, we’ve been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and play a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.

Donate or learn how you can attend a local training here.

Follow them on Twitter @NILC_org

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From the Planned Parenthood website

Planned Parenthood is the country’s leading sexual and reproductive healthcare provider. They’re also one of the biggest targets of Republican/”religious right” politicians.

For over 100 years, Planned Parenthood has helped women to take control of their lives and health by giving us birth control, medical checkups, access to doctors… they’ve saved women from being forced to get pregnant against their will, they’ve saved women from breast cancer (through early detection and care), they’ve saved LBTQ+ people who were struggling with coming out, finding support, transitioning, and more. They’ve saved women and children by offering low- and no-cost prenatal and postnatal care.

But because one section of America believes they have a right to control female bodies through legislated morality, Planned Parenthood is in danger.

They’re committed to remaining open, and remaining a staunch defender of women — and immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ communities, and disabled people — regardless of what Trump’s government does:

We have made so much progress together in the past eight years — including emerging from the worst recession we’ve had in close to a century, expanding health care coverage to more than 20 million Americans, beginning to break down barriers of discrimination and racism, and upholding marriage equality.

It’s up to us to keep fighting to protect the communities we care about. It’s up to us to fight for Planned Parenthood health centers, so they can continue to serve the people who rely on them — people who come from communities that need our continued support in this new reality: immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, people of faith, and more. It’s up to us to stand strong. It’s up to us to make sure that Planned Parenthood health centers will be there wherever and whenever they are needed, no matter what.

Their full statement is here.

Click here for nationwide volunteer opportunities (including as a clinic escort) and click here to donate. Local chapters also list more extensive volunteer opportunities, so take a look at your specific chapter (here’s New York’s page) for more.

Follow them on Twitter @PPFA

(Also, check out the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that provices education and advocacy to protect and advance women’s health and rights. Follow them on Twitter @PPact.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center:

The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

For more than four decades, we’ve won landmark cases that brought systemic reforms – toppling remnants of Jim Crow segregation and destroying violent white supremacist groups; shattering barriers to equality for women, vulnerable children, the LGBT community and the disabled; protecting migrant workers from abuse; ensuring the humane treatment of prisoners; reforming juvenile justice practices; and more. Today, with a staff of 75 lawyers and advocates, we’re focused on impact litigation in these practice areas:  Children’s Rights, Economic Justice, Immigrant Justice, LGBT Rights, and Mass Incarceration.

They monitor hate groups across the county, offer extensive resources (including online), and manage the interactive Hate Map. They identify and expose growing hate movements, including extremists in the American right. They also pursue legal action to bring justice to those who need help to get it.

Learn more here. Donate here.

Follow them on Twitter @splcenter (En español: )

The ACA saved my life, and we’re about to lose it.

There’s a lot to say about the election of Trump to be our next President, and I’m going to say it all, soon. The thing that hitting me the most though, right this minute, is that if he succeeds in taking away the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), I’ll lose my current insurance.

Congress already has a plan in place (from 2015) which would use the budget reconciliation process to gut the ACA with only a simple majority, which the Republicans have. No filibuster allowed; it’s over in one vote. From healthaffairs.org:

Both houses of Congress passed reconciliation legislation that would have repealed the premium tax credits; the small business tax credit; the individual mandate, the employer mandate; the expansion of Medicaid coverage for adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, presumptive eligibility, maintenance of effort, and benchmark plans for Medicaid; and the ACA’s taxes—the medical device tax, insurer fee, “Cadillac” high cost plan tax, and tax increases imposed on the wealthy—most of the provisions that the public identifies as “Obamacare.”

Without the tax credits which would greatly reduce my payments for a different marketplace insurance — especially given my preexisting conditions — I can’t afford to buy a replacement. Trump’s proposals (Health Savings Accounts, insurers allowed to sell plans across state lines, imported medications from overseas, keeping your kids on it until 26) won’t help me at all.

As a freelancer — the only job I can hold while still caring for my son’s special needs — I don’t have employer coverage. I don’t make enough to put into an HSA. Buying from one insurance company vs another doesn’t mean the prices will be affordable; “affordable” for me is literally whatever I can avoid spending on food and heating gas for my apartment. I don’t have extra money for health insurance when the coverage I have is taken away.

I’ll be without.

Without the ACA-provided health insurance, I wouldn’t have been properly screened for my health issues this year. I wouldn’t have had surgery in June to remove part of my thyroid. They wouldn’t have discovered my cancer when it was still small and treatable.

If I hadn’t gotten health insurance through the marketplace this year, I wouldn’t be getting it next year under President Trump, and then maybe not for another 4 or 6 or 8 years after that.

I wouldn’t have survived that long with undetected cancer. The ACA saved my life. (And it was going to keep on saving my life by providing me with the health care I need to watch out for new cancer, the medication I need to manage my ADHD so I’m a more productive worker, and limiting the amount I spend out of pocket so I can still put a little food on the table.) That’s now in jeopardy.

I have to figure out how to pay for new insurance when the time comes because I need it. I have to survive this vile “leader” who doesn’t care if I live or die. So, I’m already planning and budgeting for a future under Trump.

If you want to, and can, help, please consider:

Thank you.

 

The Worst Sentence I Ever Tried To Write

A few years back, I discovered the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest — a search for the fake opening line of the worst of all possible novels. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest is an homage to the opening line from Paul Clifford (1830), which you probably know best from this:

snoopy

I wrote (and submitted) my own version of the worst opening line in the world, never heard anything about it, and forgot it, until I found it yesterday while searching for a different file entirely.

I present it here, for you…

I stood for hours under that street light waiting for him to get off work, wondering all the while if his lateness in achieving an exit from his wretched place of business was in fact because of stray, lingering customers, or if in his position as manager of a “gentleman’s club” he had finally succumbed to the lurid pleasures of the flesh his harlot employees offered to other less scrupulous men who (one would hope) did not have the kind of quality wife waiting for them that he did, a wife who would stand outside in the pouring rain even when he’d asked me to stay home on numerous occasions, on account of him being so concerned for the state of my health, though something could be said for the fact that a woman standing under a streetlight in the pouring rain in only her pink fuzzy bathrobe and bunny slippers might not be so good for business.

I didn’t win the Bulwer-Lytton the year I sent it in, which is to say that I failed at writing a sentence awkward enough to be truly terrible.

At least now, when I’m feeling low about my writing, thinking that it’s awful and shouldn’t see the light of day, I know: whatever I write could always be worse.

And that cheers me up.