New Collection/Fundraiser Update: An Excerpt from “No Hand To Turn The Key”

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

The second reprint story in the new collection originally appeared in Steampunk Cthulhu: Mythos Terror in the Age of Steam, out from Chaosium in 2014. It was actually one of the first Mythos stories I wrote, and is an example of what I like best when writing Lovecraft-inspired work: playing at the edges of what came before me, exploring the long-term effects of the Old Ones, with characters you wouldn’t expect.

Want to know a secret? It’s set on the UPenn campus (in my favorite building, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center) and mostly in my favorite place, the 6th floor. That’s home to the Kislak Center for Special Collections and Rare Books.

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I spent a hundreds of hours of my life here.

The story begins after all hope had been lost…

The University didn’t have many buildings to choose from. She’d spent time in the Downtown division, where troopers could sit in a 10th story windows and pick off intruders with ease, but having been promoted to defend a more delicate area, she was also forced to do more work. The tallest building on the quad was the New Library, so she headed up the large gray steps toward the wood-paneled doors long-gone construction units had rigged together when the original glass one was busted, decades before. Her heavy armor weighed on her as she moved herself up each worn piece of concrete but there wasn’t time to rest. There was barely time to wind.

Past a pair of dim-witted sentries and into the lift she’d held her back straight and her head high, but alone in the box she finally allowed herself to slump against the wall. Deftly undoing the multitude of fastenings on her coat, she slipped one hand inside and found her windup key – an ornate cog slowly untwisting against her otherwise plain chest. She gently moved her fingers across its intricately engraved surface, feeling the motion of the cog as it clicked down.

The lift slowed at a floor lower than the one she’d been aiming for, and suddenly her moment of privacy ended under the gaze of a male she didn’t know. His eyes widened, taking in the scene.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I can wait for the next one.” He dropped his gaze.

“No, of course not,” she replied. “Don’t waste the energy. This one is already going up.”

He nodded, entered the box, and turned to face the closing doors, still looking down at the floor.

She realized too late that she had left her hand inside her jacket, fingers idly fondling her chest.

I’m running out of time to pay off what I owe so I can register for Fall, so please, if you can contribute today. I can take contributions via PayPal here (Anything sent this way is still eligible for the same rewards, and I add it to the total at GoFundMe so everyone can see where we are). If you’d like, you can use the GoFundMe instead.

New Collection/Fundraiser Update: An Excerpt from “CL3ANS3”

I’ve got just under $750 to go on my fundraiser to help me put out a small collection of Mythos fiction, in order to pay for a couple of college classes. The collection – which I’m calling Black Mud Sun, Blood Red Sea – will include two previously published and three original stories. All varied, inclusive, a little sexy, and a lot of fun to write.

Here’s an excerpt from one of those stories, “CL3ANS3” (originally appearing in Eldritch Chrome: Unquiet Tales of a Mythos-Haunted Future, Chaosium. December 2, 2013.)

A handsome boy delivered glasses of chilled water to our table, singing out, “Hydration!” as he slid one in front of each of us. They were always lovely, the ones who served our food and smiled as they took our coats.

I watched him walk away as Marc sighed heavily.

“You do look feverish,” Hassa said, concerned. “You’re sweating.”

“You should notify medical,” Elda added.

“Yes, I think …” Marc paused, putting a hand to his forehead. “I think I’ll go there now.” He lurched to his feet and left, bumping into our handler as he passed her. She looked shaken but managed to get our meal on the table in the right order. Her long hair was brushed straight and bound behind her head with a black bow. I thought about my own hair, cropped close to my head, the way it had been for years. Data processor chic; we all wore it this way.

“He’s gone to medical,” I said when I realized she was still standing at our table, Marc’s food on her tray, a lost look on her face. “You can take that back to the kitchen.” She smiled then, brightly, and retreated.

Mid-shift break never feels as if it’s long enough.

I settled into my couch, removing the cover from my data jack and slipping the transfer cable inside. The world fell away, and my real life came back into focus.

As I was unpacking the last file for the day, a vid with partial frame loss, a message flashed: my Architect advising me that I was needed on the University project. Marc’s project. I put the vid aside and sent her a reply, questioning.

“We have two processors out with illness,” she answered back. “Is anything in your queue a priority?”

“No, I’m clear to transfer,” I thought back at her, and she changed my queue with a quick “Thank you.” File attached. Info for the University. I put it aside for the next day, cleaned up my video, and placed it with the rest of its mates.

I wish I could say that I had some premonition of what was coming, but I slept dreamlessly and woke up refreshed. We have pills for that.

I’ve collected reviews of the story here.

I’m running out of time to pay off what I owe so I can register for Fall, so please, if you can contribute today. I can take contributions via PayPal here (Anything sent this way is still eligible for the same rewards, and I add it to the total at GoFundMe so everyone can see where we are). If you’d like, you can use the GoFundMe instead.

3 Weeks Post-Surgery: Mostly Good (Even the Cancer Part)

Three weeks ago, I went to the hospital for surgery. They removed half of my thyroid, because it had developed nodules (what they call thyroid tumors they suspect are benign) and had swollen up enough that it pressed against my trachea, and the nerve that controlled my vocal cords. I was having trouble breathing, at times, and my voice had started to go froggy. Of course, there was the year, going on two, before that of me starting to go downhill physically  – tired all of the time, gaining weight, struggling to stay on task or complete things on time – but after dealing with a doctor who insisted it was just me being a woman, getting older, I’d found one who was actually willing to do lab work and sort it out. I was diagnosed with anemia, and started medication for that. Aside from the pressure on my throat, I should have been on the mend.

I didn’t quite feel it, though. A little better… but still, something was wrong.

We agonized over the decision to cut out part of my thyroid. It’s a simple, safe, outpatient procedure, except that it’s still surgery, which is never guaranteed 100% safe. My SO and I talked it over, made plans for dealing with what would come next if I didn’t make it out okay, and decided (supported by my surgeon’s opinion) that it’s better to get the swollen part of my thyroid out now before it got bigger and did some real damage. I felt it, a literal lump in my throat, every time I swallowed. Every time I tried to exercise and had to breathe harder. When I laid down for sleep, and the lump shifted a little, pressing on a new spot I hadn’t yet learned to ignore.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that lies flat, for most people, and has the volume of a peanut on each side. My right side wasn’t visible from the outside, so you wouldn’t know unless you saw a sonogram that it was the size of a jawbreaker, and growing. Inside were two nodules; the bigger one had been biopsied three times since it was found three years ago, and declared benign, though I was told in 2013 that it was collapsing and would get smaller – we discovered in May that it had actually gotten larger.

The smaller one was labeled “suspicious” by the sonogram tech during this round of tests, but was .1 mm too small for a biopsy to be considered necessary, according to the current medical guidelines, so I was told not to worry. We’d wait, they said, and check on it again next year.

If I hadn’t opted to remove the larger side of my thyroid, that nodule would still be there. Continue reading

Poem: Ephyra

EPHYRA

Dressed in darkness, I tumble into dawn
To run salt-scented, empty asphalt
Space my neighbors have abandoned
Since streetlamps, transfigured
Hatched airborne jellies, now
Untethered, slowly drifting past
Sporadic bioluminscence:
An ocean’s liberated dream

Close to these shy miracles, I
Regret my awkward novice stride
And that I slept while they were born
Now icy puddles splash bare feet
Knees ache carrying my weight
Skin sweats, chaps, and chafes –
But above me, floating free,
Those silent creatures light my way.

– Carrie Cuinn

Continue reading

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:

 

You Can Now Preorder My Mythos Collection for $2

Many of you know that I’m raising money to put out a new short collection of Mythos- and HP Lovecraft-inspired fiction. This collection will have 5 stories; two were previously published by Chaosium, and the other three have never been seen before. If you donate through my GoFundMe Page, you get access to reward levels like podcasts, original art, naming a dead body, and more.

If you want to simply preorder the book via PayPal, you can do that too! I will keep a running total of ebooks purchased this way, and add it to the total fundraiser amount, so preordering the book still goes toward my total goal. Once that number is reached, the books and rewards will be released to everyone.

Oh, and the name of my collection? I’m calling it “Black Mud Sun, Blood Red Sea”.

Preorder it here:

Pay with PayPal, PayPal Credit or any major credit card

Mythos Collection Fundraiser Update: Podcasts!

GoFundMe Page Here

I’ve raised almost 1/3 of my goal, but still need $1100 to pay off my two college classes. In addition to the collection of Lovecraft-inspired fiction I’m offering up in exchange, I’ve also got reward levels for backers: beta read for short fiction, original art, even a chance to name a body in one of these stories.

Now I’ve added another perk, and everyone who’s contributed $5 or more gets it! I’ll be recording me reading at least one story from the collection – the closer we get to the goal, the more I’ll commit to doing. If we meet the entire goal of $1500, through GoFundMe or through PayPal donations (which I’ve been adding to the GFM page so everyone can see the total raised), I’ll read the entire set of stories.

You can contribute at higher levels to get those rewards and still get the podcasts, too. It’s my gift to everyone who so generously gave to me.

As I said in my original post, 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 as much as GoFundMe, you can send money using this link . If you do, I’ll add it manually here, so the total amount needed goes down.

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