Art History Resources For Writers

I’ve occasionally talked about different aspects of art history here: semiotics, evolution of style, photo references, and so on. I don’t work as an art historian now, and I’m no longer pursuing a degree in that field (though I do have one and studied for another), so I’m always on the fence about how much time to devote to discussing it in this space. I think most people who read this blog are here for writing — my writing, or conversations about writing — and I’m not sure how much interest there ever was in me excitably sharing some obscure piece of history or culture that I read about this week.

But the truth is that I read non-fiction every week, in addition to fiction, and most of what I’m studying on my own is related to art history. I’ve always been a sociocultural art historian, which means I seek to understand art by  understanding the culture and context within which it was created, instead of trying to fit the art of another time and place into a framework I’m imposing. (I’m looking at you, Marxist aestheticists.) That’s part of why semiotics is an integral part of my art criticism; visual communication, including art, is an extension of linguistics, and like language, can’t be truly understood unless you know the context in which it’s spoken, and the culture of the people speaking it.

So, I think I’m going to incorporate more of that into this space. It’s a part of who I am, and that’s what you signed up for when you read my blog.

Before you go, check out these links to some previous posts that might interest you:

If you’d like me to talk about anything in particular, please leave me a comment below.

Today I’m Saving the World (A Little Bit)

 

When this posts, I’ll be lying on a Red Cross table, donating 2 units of red blood cells in a process they call “Power Red” automated donation. Basically, an apheresis machine will draw out twice as much blood as during a typical donation, separating the blood cells from the platelets and plasma. Then it returns those to me along with some saline; this keeps me from being too dehydrated afterward, and lets me give more blood cells than I could otherwise.

Donating blood is one of the most useful ways to help those in need. Unlike money (which can be spent on a charity’s “infrastructure” instead of going to those the group claims to help) or food (which is hard for food banks to manage and often a waste of time/money), donated blood can’t be “spent” on anything but saving a life.

Listen, the world in general is a cruel and uncaring place for most of us. But as individuals, we’re largely a decent group of creatures worth supporting and even saving, if necessary. Time and again we’re show definitive proof that we can’t go through the world alone — we need family, friends, safety nets, and social programs (including ambulances, emergency rooms, and fire crews) to get ahead and stay there. Everyone has to contribute whatever they can, so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, or only the truly lucky will.

I’ve been scheduling a blood donation as often as they let me since I moved to Ithaca over 5 years ago. It’s the one thing I’ve been able to commit to, consistently, that is entirely about giving someone else a hand. There’s no glory in it, no reward, other than being selfless for 30 minutes, a couple of times a year.

I don’t have a lot of time to donate toward saving the world, and no money. I can do this, though, and so can you.

Bills to Pay and Words to Write

It’s sometimes hard to make ends meet as a full-time freelancer, and the last couple of months, work has been slow. I’m always looking for new clients (need an editor? Check out my services here), applying for jobs, pitching for writing gigs — if you know of anything, please send it my way.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to use what I do best to pay some bills.

I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted five tales:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.

You can give me a phrase, like “Dachshunds from Mars”, or individual prompts, like “forest stream, tall and short, violet, bunny, moons.” You can give me a name you’d like me to use for a character, or tell me what genre/time period your story should be in. (I reserve the right to say no, but as long as your ideas don’t include gratuitous sex or violence against vulnerable people, I probably won’t.) From your idea, I’ll write a flash fiction story of about 1000 words. I send the stories to the person who prompted them for review, and then post them here with a note about who gave me the prompt. You get credit for your ideas 🙂

I’ve got a few more stories in the queue which will post to my site over the next week or two, but after that, I’m done unless someone else contributes to the list.

Update: My Mythos collection, “Black Mud Sun, Blood Red Sea”, is nearly done!

Last year, I held a small fundraiser to help me pay for college. If I met my goal, I’d release a collection of HPL-inspired Mythos fiction: five stories, two of which were previously published by Chaosium, and another three that hadn’t been seen before.

Because I didn’t meet my goal, I couldn’t afford to take time off to focus solely on the collection, but I have been writing on it whenever I could sneak a spare moment. And now the writing is done!

I actually wrote four new, original, stories, so everyone who contributed to the campaign will get six short stories all together, plus a podcast of me reading one of them.

I shared three excerpts online:

The three other new stories are:

  • “Black Mud Sun”, about a small team of cosmonauts investigating a mysterios rift in space…
  • “Blood Red Sea”, a classic HPL-style Mythos adventure set in the 1800s, when a sailing ship could still find places no man has ever been…
  • “When It All Falls Through”, where the right drink poured for a customer on the right stool, in the right bar, could go so very wrong…

Right now, I’m working my way through revisions, artwork, and putting the whole thing together. I’m planning to have it done to release this summer. So, if you contributed already, yay! You’ll have the book soon.

If you didn’t get a chance to buy your copy, you still can, by pre-ordering it via PayPal for $2 — OR, if you’d like to contribute more, and get bigger rewards (original art, editing services, my perpetual adoration) you can do so by donating directly to me here.

$5 or more: You’ll receive the ebook and podcast, when it’s ready.

$20 or more: I’ll beta read a short story – under 8000 words – for you. Any genre. (You can select this reward now and redeem it at a future date.)

$50 or more: There’s more than a few victims of foul play in these stories. Donate $50, and you get to name one of them. (A vaguely reasonable human name, please.)

$75 or more: Donate this amount, and I’ll send you the signed original of a b/w line drawing I’m creating as interior art for this collection.

I’ve turned off last year’s GoFundMe, but the reward levels are still the same; I want everyone to get the same benefits. Just leave me a note with your donation so I know which reward you want!

And, if you’re interested in beta reading one of the stories, please email me and let me know. You get to read one early, and I would appreciate the feedback.

As always, thank you for your support.

 

Starting my 2017 Flash Fiction Challenge — Tell me what you want to read!

I’m ready. Let’s do this.

#SFWAPro

Last year, I did a little fiction challenge, where I got ideas from various people, and wrote five flash-length stories. Those were:

This year, I’d like to expand on that challenge to do more than five stories. I also have a few annual bills due this month — and my car died/had to be hauled off — which is straining my budget. Rather than just ask for help from my readers and friends, I thought, “Why not give you something for your money?”

If you donate any amount through my PayPal link, add a note which tells me what you want to see in your story, and I’ll write it! Plus, I’ll mention you when I share it online, and email it to you for approval before posting it here on my site. (Unless you let me know you don’t want that.)

You can give me a phrase, like “Dachshunds from Mars”, or individual prompts, like “forest stream, tall and short, violet, bunny, moons.” You can give me a name you’d like me to use for a character, or tell me what genre/time period your story should be in.*

I’ll keep this open until I’ve got enough topics to write about. Tell your friends!

 

* I reserve the right to say no, but as long as your ideas don’t include gratuitous sex or violence against vulnerable people, I probably won’t.

A tiny contribution to (the exquisite! corpse of) Uncanny Magazine’s Issue 15

#SFWAPro

Cover by Julie Dillon

Last month, Uncanny Magazine editor Michael Damian Thomas came up with a creative way to put off writing an editorial for Issue 15. He called it The Uncanny Magazine Exquisite Corpse Editorial — and I got to contribute a sentence to it!

In his introduction, Thomas explained…

The Exquisite Corpse was an old Surrealist game where you build off of what the previous person created, but you never see the whole. In this case, each writer only read the previous sentence before writing their sentence. Then their sentence and only their sentence was passed to the next person, and so on. On that note, enjoy this editorial by nearly 40 writers!

You can read our collaboration here.

The first half of the magazine is already online, free to read, here.

You can also subscribe to a full year at Weightless Books or Amazon, plus buy single issues from those retailers, Kobo, and Google Play.

Updated: MOVING MOVING MOVING (Hey, I’m moved in!)

Updated Feb 15, 2017

hello

(This is Licorice, the neighbor’s cat. She is very friendly.)

 

We’re moving at the end of the month now! I had my first class of the new semester this morning, and then I picked up the keys to the new apartment, and have already taken over a carload of stuff.

If you didn’t already know… I was supposed to stay in my old apartment until summer, but the strain of balancing overworking myself to pay the rent plus school, parenting, relationship, writing, and managing last year’s health issues meant I was constantly stressed. My previous landlord wanted to do something else with the space, so when he asked if I’d consider moving out now, I jumped on the opportunity. I found us a (smaller but still nice) much cheaper apartment closer to the edge of town. There’s no downside to moving, and a few big reasons to go ahead:

My new place is about $500 a month less, closer to Logan’s school, and mine, so it’s be great for both of us. Plus, we’re living very close to my significant other, the last step before we can be certain living together will work for us. The short-term hassle of having to scrape up rent/deposit/moving expenses before I get back the deposit on my current apt, and having to move, was totally worth the long-term gain of not being behind on bills every month, worried and unable to spend time on anything for myself.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to balance a reasonable work schedule with a little more family time, and a chance to get back into a regular writing routine.

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.

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.