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

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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.

BRB, Working

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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

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:

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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.

Updates and News (August 2016 edition), or, Damn, That Was the Hardest Month

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In August:

I fell apart a bit.

I’ve said it before but this year has proven to me that the last 3 weeks of August (and the first week of September) are the hardest “month” of the year. That’s partly because of having my son home 24 hours a day without any respite, or break, or money to go out and do anything. His school year starts later than most; his first day back wasn’t until September 8, and by then, we were both ready for him to go.

We had to sit in our too-warm apartment all month — our landlord won’t let us put in an A/C unit — because it was too hot to be outside and at least we have some fans indoors. I still had to work as much as possible, and my hyperactive teen quickly became bored bored bored. With his special needs, I can’t send him out to play alone at the park, or go ride a bike, or any of the things I used to do to fill my summer days, all by myself as a kid. He’s an independent guy for the most part, wanting to play his video games or watch his favorite movies over and over for hours at a time. But even he gets tired of that much faster than I need if I’m going to put in a day’s work the way I can when he’s in school or camp.

The heat at the end of summer here is something I’m still getting used to. Growing up in California, we had heat. Hotter days. Lying out on the roof or in the grass that was dry and gone yellow, baking under the sun — my dog days of summer was late August dry heat, 100 degrees or more with no moisture in the air, and the utter joy of a sudden breeze. Here… it’s 90 degrees that feels like 95 because of 75% humidity and scattered rain every few afternoons that does nothing to cut the heat. I live in New York, but it feels like the summer I spent in Georgia, and like the bible school my aunt enrolled me in while I was there, I haven’t gotten used to it yet.

The best kid ever gets fidgety and then grumpy and then outright rebellious, given enough time trapped in a hot apartment with his mom who’s too busy and too poor to do much with him.

We did have one good adventure when I splurged on the gas on drove out to a Wal-Mart the next county over to do his back-to-school clothes shopping. Driving over the hills, the farms all green and growing, under a bright blue sky, the two of us played a game where we gave each other colors and picked out passing cars that matched. He got new clothes (not enough, but at least he wasn’t a shambles on his first day back), and a new haircut at the Wal-Mart salon (I didn’t even know they had those, did you?), and five whole dollars to spend in the arcade (I didn’t know Wal-Mart had those, either).

He was driving the Nascar game (of course) when a little girl sat at the Fast and Furious game next to him. She and her grandma couldn’t figure out how to get started, so Logan — silently — reached over and set it up so she could race the car she wanted, then went back to his game. Kid can barely speak, but he’s so smart and sweet and he didn’t just figure out what they were struggling with, but he wanted to help.

As hard as raising him is, and it is, a lot, my son always reminds me that he’s worth everything I do for him. Continue reading

10 Seemingly Polite (But Actually Racist As F*ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met

  1. Where are you from? Unless you’re prepared to respond to “I’m from Cleveland” with “You must be happy the Cavs got LeBron back”, do not ask this question of people you’ve just met. Why not? Because in America, the people who get asked that question are almost always people of color, and answering with the name of a US city usually gets “Ok, but where were you born?” as a response. The implication is that if you’re not white, you’re automatically not from here, you must be from somewhere else. The one exception to this is black people, who are usually assumed to be African-American (even if they’re not) because of course we know where they came from, right?
  2. Do you have an American name? If the person you are talking to was born in America or later became a citizen of the United States, their name is their American name. They are American. Even if they’re not, no one is issued an “American name” when they get their passport stamped at the airport on their way into the country. What you’re really saying here is “Do you have a more white-sounding name because I’m not going to bother to learn how to pronounce yours.”
  3. What ethnicity are you? Unless you’re taking a census poll, you do not need to know this when you meet someone. (As a white person, I have never, not once, in my life, been asked what my ethnicity is, even though pale-skinned people are not from the same hegemonious group somewhere in Europe.) If it’s relevant to the conversation, they’ll probably volunteer it. If they don’t, it’s either not relevant, or they may not want you to know.
  4. [greeting them in a foreign language] Unless you know for a fact the person’s ethnicity, place of birth, country they grew up in, and that they speak the language you’re attempting to use on them, AND THEY’VE TOLD YOU THEY ARE FINE WITH YOU SPEAKING TO THEM IN THIS WAY, do not do this. You’re most likely going to be wrong about either the language their ancestors spoke or that person’s ability to speak it, so you’re going to look like an idiot; worse, you’re starting off the conversation with proof you’ve both racially profiled and stereotyped that person, all at once.
  5. Who’s baby is this? when the infant in question is not the exact same skin tone as the adult you’re asking. Really want to be a jackass? Follow up them telling you, “Oh, she’s mine” with “Aww, is she adopted?”
  6. Your jacket/jewelry/outfit is so interesting/pretty/cool, is that from your home country? You know who rarely gets asked something they’re wearing is from their “home country”? White people. But, white people wear “ethnic looking” stuff all of the time. Mexican embroidery on peasant tops, Native American imagery on jewelry, Asiatic dragons on practically everything, and yet, few people ask about it with the idea that it’s somehow representing something specific to that white person. People of color get asked because they’re the other, they’re different, they’re foreign… even when they’re not. (Or do you just not ask white people about the origin of their clothes because you already know it’s appropriation?)
  7. Your hair is so complex/interesting/unusual — it must take a long time to do. Translation: you don’t have white people hair, your life must be hard. I’m so glad I have easy hair.
  8. Your hair is really pretty like that (when the person has a Western/American hairstyle that they don’t always wear). Translation: you made your hair look like white people hair, good job! You’re more acceptable to me now.
  9. What do your parents think of you being/working/living here? If you’re at a strip club, perhaps asking a dancer that question is reasonable — there’s a common misconception that erotic dancers are doing something immoral, and so, maybe their parents wouldn’t like their job. But it’s probably still the wrong thing to ask. When you’re asking it of a person of color, you’re signaling to them that you think it’s weird they’re there. You’re saying that you wouldn’t expect someone like them to have that job, or be in that place, and by phrasing it as a question about their parents, you’re trying to put a polite veneer on excluding them from what you think is “normal” for that place.
  10. Oh, do you know Bob Chu? He’s my neighbor/coworker/employee of a place that I go to. Pro tip: people of the same ethnicity do not automatically all know each other. Even people of the same ethnicity who are all in the same town, or all attending the same convention, do not know each other. By asking this, you’re letting the person know you aren’t going to remember anything about them except their ethnicity, and to you, all of those people are interchangeable and connected. Good job, jackass!

 

Fred Coppersmith’s Favorite Stories of 2016 (includes my @apexmag tale!)

Over on Twitter, author and publisher Fred Coppersmith has been tweeting about stories he likes all through the year. He starts off with my Apex Magazine story, “That Lucky Old Sun“. Thanks, Fred!

He’s curated the whole list on Storify, which I’ve embedded below:

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Updates and News (July 2016 edition)

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In July:

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Abutilon (Flowering Maple) after the rain, Ithaca, New York

I started taking photographs again. Not many, yet, but I’m trying to get back into it, when I have the time. The idea that I can share a beautiful moment without having to be front and center, letting the image speak for me, is very comforting. In a way, I can be social and introverted at the same time, which suits me best.

I wrote, too, a little bit. A poem about being frustrated at the inevitable whiteness of public grief when the media covers dead and injured people of color. More words on the new stories for my Mythos collection. (You can still get it for yourself by pre-ordering it via PayPal for $2, or donating to the fundraiser in exchange for rewards like podcasts and beta reads and art.)

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Landlocked, Canadice Lake, New York

I took a day for myself — who does that? So novel! — to drive out to the middle of nowhere to meet Mercedes, and it was lovely.

I had sales and publications, too:

Sold a reprint of my flash story “Call Center Blues” to Luna Station Quarterly.

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Issue 1.3 of Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal came out, and it includes my weird SF story, “One Echo Of An August Morning”. I blogged about it here.

I updated my Amazon wish list with some things that will help my life, if you like me enough to support me that way. You can also support me through my Patreon, which gets you poetry and microfiction at the moment, and will host longer stories when more people sign up.

One of the most important things I did was…

I got set up to once again teach my favorite online workshop: Better Writing Through Brevity: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash! And I blogged about why you should take this class from me, here. It’s entirely online, it’s less expensive than similar workshops offered anywhere else, and it’s starting in a month, so please, check it out, and tell your friends.

I also wrestled, mostly quietly and to myself, about my work as a freelancer. Most of you know that I went back to editing and content creation full-time because it’s the only job I can work around my son’s special needs, at least until I can finish college and have a real degree to back up my decades of experience (which should let me find a better paying dayjob where I have some seniority and flexibility). I love editing, I love writing, but freelancing is more than those things, and when it’s your only income, it’s frightening.

(Need an editor? I’m available!)

July was my best month as a freelancer so far this year — I got more done, on time! and secured some new work, got paid, too — but it’s still not enough to even cover the rent. I’m very glad to be recovering (recovered?) from being sick for so long; I feel good, I’m getting things done, and I feel confident going forward that I can do more and more. I’ve been chasing new kinds of work: in addition to editing, I did a lot of writing on spec, and at least some of that should pay off eventually. After not having the brain to do a workshop all year, I’m finally ready to do a new one, and a few people have signed up so far, which helped my July income. 

On the other hand, it’s tough to work 40+ hours a week, pull a couple of all nighters, chase every opportunity I can think of — on top of parenting my child — to bring in less than I need to give my landlord this week. Much less the other unpaid bills. It’s disheartening, is what it is.

I admit that I struggle, sometimes, to get up every day and do it again. I hope August is better.

(The list of what I did in June is here.)

Updates and News (June 2016 edition)

A new thing I’m trying out: I’m going to start each month with a quick list of updates, and news you might have missed. That way, I know everyone who follows me online has seen them, and I don’t have to plaster the internet with handbills.

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There’s. Just. So. Many. Bills.

Ready? Here we go…

In June, I had surgery to remove half my thyroid, found out I had (but no longer have) cancer, and spent most of the month recovering. I’m better now.

I finished the general education portion of school (mostly through transferring classes in, but some I took here), yay! Because I owe money to my college before I can register for fall, I’m putting together a small collection of my Mythos fiction. You can help me out by pre-ordering it via PayPal for $2, or donating to the fundraiser in exchange for rewards like podcasts and beta reads and art.

This collection will have 5 stories; two were previously published by Chaosium, and the other three have never been seen before. I’ve started sharing excerpts:

I still need $695 to make this happen, so please consider telling your friends.

In June I also sold three stories – two reprints and an original – to three magazines. I’ve signed contracts for two, so I shared the news about one sale so far, “One Echo Of An August Morning” to Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal. Click here for more information on that.

I shared two poems with my readers last month. One was “Ephyra” – a short poem inspired by the place where mythic women and jellyfish meet. The other was “The Wanderer’s Lament”, an Old West-theme ballad in the style of cowboy songs. I posted that to my Patreon page, unlocked and open to the public. You can read “Ephyra” by clicking the link, and over here is the “The Wanderer’s Lament“.

In other, not good news: I’ve no work for July, and bills/rent already [past] due. Time for a sale on editing services! I’m experienced, available, and desperately need to fill a last minute cancellation, even book ahead, so I’m offering 50% OFF EVERY EDITING SERVICE. You can find me at  or use my contact form here.

If you like my work as an editor, please share this sale with anyone who might be interested.

I’m in a hard spot, financially, that I haven’t been in for a while. It’s tough not to feel as if it’s one step forward, two steps back, but I know overall life has been better lately, and with the medical stuff out of the way now, I can focus on work. Writing, editing, making a career and a name for myself. If it seems like I’m trying to monetize everything I can, well, I am. I’m doing every kind of work I can do under the circumstances to support myself and my son; freelancing, side gigs, the Mythos project, you name it. I hope there’s something in there that appeals to you, that you can support.

Now, on to July…

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College Update: Done with General Ed!

Between transfer credits, what I’ve done at my current school so far, and a few creatively-worded waivers, I’m done with the General Education portion of my degrees. From here on out, it’s all Writing Program courses.

I’ve got two semesters until I graduate with an AA in Creative Writing in 2017, and then I can transfer for two or three semesters at SUNY to get my BA in English/Professional Writing. That’s the dream, folks. A Bachelors degree is my ticket to getting dependable work at a pay rate that covers a reasonable cost of living for this area. It’s the culmination of my educational efforts so far, all the time and energy I’ve put into community college in California, and my time at the University of Pennsylvania and the setback from having to leave school when I got divorced and was suddenly a single parent, and now going back to college here…

I feel like I’ve passed a milestone. Caught up with myself. Everything I’m learning from this point forward is useful and not only relevant to my freelance work, but whatever job I’m going to have after I graduate. I’m no longer retaking classes that didn’t transfer or fulfilling requirements that should have been filled but because of bureaucracy, weren’t. I’m no longer “wasting” time and money.

If you’ve been following along with my fundraising efforts to pay for school, I’m still about halfway from my goal, and could still use your help. (I need to register for my Fall classes to ensure I get the ones only offered once a year!) Plus, you get fiction and other goodies from me.

You can contribute in the following ways: