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)

Continue reading

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.

Mini Movie Review: Meet the Patels

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With the help of his sister (Geeta V. Patel – amateur cameraperson, roommate, and occasional voice of reason), actor Ravi Patel chronicles his journey to find a suitable wife in this documentary. It was picked up by a distributor after being entered in a few film festivals; it won the Audience Award in L.A. On a production level, it’s not great, though the shaky handcam is balanced out by crisp animation and slick packaging (clearly added by a later producer). The film’s insightful, though in a limited way: Ravi shows some of what an American-born Indian might go through to find a spouse, but during the process, he never really commits to finding someone new, since he’s already got someone in mind. Because it’s clear from the beginning that he would rather be with his ex, Audrey, there’s no dramatic tension, and no real possibility he’ll fall in love with anyone else.

The problem arises not from the difficulties of finding a suitable wife, but because Ravi doesn’t want to tell his Indian-born parents that Audrey is white. Instead, they break up, and she moves progressively farther and farther away from him while he’s simultaneously searching the Internet for a “proper” Indian wife who’ll appeal to his American taste.  If you aren’t familiar with the ways a Patel in the US can find a wife – arranged marriages, matchmakers, dating websites, family conventions, and biodata sheets passed around by the mothers of potential dates – that part of the film is interesting. I wish there was more of a focus on that part of Ravi’s search, but each snippet is brought back, time and again, to Ravi’s internal conflicts (Audrey vs. what he thinks his parents want, what he thinks he should want) and Ravi’s clear need to be honest with everyone involved.

In the end, Meet the Patels is less about Ravi’s family, and more a letter to his first love: “Here’s the process of me figuring out I was an idiot,” the movie seems to say. Once he’s decided to introduce them, his parents very quickly agree that having a white American girl for a wife is much better than no wife at all. None of his feared “drama” arises at her identity, and only a little at his deception (quickly forgiven), proving Ravi should have just told them in the first place.

That’s true of most conflicts, though, isn’t it?

Overall, it’s cute, somewhat informative, and buoyed by Ravi’s charming family. Worth watching, but you can safely do other things while it’s on.

3/5*

Watch it on Netflix.

My work will be included in this year’s Art & Words show

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I’ve been accepted to the annual art and fiction show, curated by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam and Jennifer Aglio, which is held in Fort Worth, TX, each year. I won’t be able to be there in person, but I’m thrilled to be in the lineup, which includes:

2016 Writers

Katharyn Howd Machan
Shane Halbach
Courtney Marie
Leah Tieger
Joe Milazzo
Shawna Borman
Karen Bovenmyer
Lisa Shininger
Laura Madeline Wiseman
Layla Al-Bedawi
Carrie Cuinn
Matthew Pitt

As well as a dozen visual artists (you can read more about them here).

There are two parts to the show. First, they selected a reprint work of mine – my poem, “Myth of the Mother Snake”, previously published at Liminality Magazine– which an artist will be using as the inspiration to create a new piece of art. Then, I chose from a list of submitted artworks, and I’ll be writing a new flash fiction story to go alone with it. All of the art and words will be on display during the show.

* Note to locals: The Art & Words Show will be on Saturday, October 1, 2016 at Art on the Boulevard if you’d like to attend.