10 Questions About My Writing, Answered

I saw this series of questions going around Twitter, but rather than answer them individually in under 140 characters, behold! A blog post.

1. What kind of writer are you?

I am the sort of writer who writes everything (nonfiction, fiction, essays, articles, literary stories and every other genre marketers have come up with to date), has more story ideas than time, and who genuinely loves everything about the writing process except the fact that it doesn’t pay the bills.

I am the sort of writer who can’t afford to be a writer full-time, not yet, and I miss writing when I’m not, but I feel incredibly guilty when I write for myself instead of the forty other things on my To-Do list at that moment.

I am the sort of writer who’s comfortable being known as a short story writer, or a novelist, or a journalist, or any other flavor of writer, as long as at the end of my life, I’ve completed enough good, solid, work that it can be accumulated into a collection worth reading.

I’m the sort of writer who’s in no particular rush to be famous, but I love hearing when my writing made you feel or see something new, or remember something forgotten, or reconsider yourself. I want to know that at least one other person has gotten out of my words what I put into it. That, and eventually being able to write my way into a decent paycheck and a saving account, are all I want from my writing life.

2. What was it that made you become a writer?

As far as I know, I’ve always been one. When I was very small, before preschool, I was writing stories and drawing pictures, like most little kids do. The first story I clearly remember: I was 4 years old. It was about the life of a unicorn named Fred, who was of course a girl; I wrote it in pencil, on pages and pages of that cheap wide-ruled paper you’re supposed to practice your handwriting on. I illustrated it, too.

I remember being told that my writing was very good, but my art wasn’t, and deciding that okay, I wouldn’t be an artist, but I could keep writing. Up until that point, I’d struggled to make people care about or hear what I had to say, but this story, written down on paper instead of words coming out of my mouth, my mom liked. For a minute, we had connected. I felt understood.

I wanted that feeling forever.

3. Are you super critical of your own work?

It depends on the piece. When I know it’s good writing, it tends to be easier to write; I’m not self-editing every other word, and I enjoy the process of getting the story out onto the page. I write quickly, revise only a little, and am happy with the finished product.

Other times, it takes me years to finish a story, because I know it’s not quite right before I’ve even written it. I’m going to turn it around in my head, let my lizard brain grapple with it, for as long as it takes to figure out what’s wrong. Sometimes, I don’t ever figure it out, and I’m not comfortable sharing those “broken” stories with the world.

4. What do you do to combat writers block?

For me, “writers block” means “I don’t want to write the thing I’m trying to force myself to write”, so I stop trying to write it. I either recognize that there’s something else I want to write more, and jump onto that, or I can see that the piece I’m struggling with isn’t working because I don’t know enough. I have a great setting but I don’t have the plot, or I haven’t done enough research, so I go back to the drawing board and hammer out the missing pieces.

After I’ve written the other thing, or fixed the problem with the thing I’m balking about, it tends to be a lot easier for me to write what I’d intended to do first.

Continue reading

Cover and Interior Art from NOWA FANTASTYKA, Apr 2015

NFApr2015cover

Earlier this year, Polish SFF magazine NOWA FANTASTYKA translated and published my story, “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”. The cover is above (click on it to see a larger version). It’s my first translation and my first international publication; I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

I don’t have the right to scan/post the entire story, but I did want to share this bit:

NFApr2015int

That’s original art, drawn for my story, by Maciej Zaganczyk. It shows a disgruntled Mr. Liu chasing after the dog who stole his arm. It’s the impetus for the rest of the tale: this risen corpse, this bad dog. (And we can all agree, it was a very bad dog.)

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” was originally published at Red Penny Papers, in their Summer 2012 issue, and is no longer available to read online. However, you can still get it as a part of my short collection, Women and Other Constructs, here (including free downloads).

More Reviews of “Women and Other Constructs”

“I get to breathe in truth and swim around in a sea of knowledge.”
Carrie Cuinn, Women and Other Constructs

Someone took the time to add that as a quote on Goodreads. Isn’t that great? (The line is from “A Cage, Her Arms”, which is only available in this collection.)

The collection is still being read and reviewed, which I love. Here are a couple I haven’t shared before:

“Savor the Flavor of Each Short. This is a wonderful collection of short stories…. Further, I’m going to suggest that people definitely read the introduction, then work through the stories themselves, savoring each one. Make a point to read the ABOUT THE STORIES section for each story after reading said story as this gives an insight into what brought the story to life, if it had been published elsewhere, and any deeper meaning that the author may want to impart regarding the content. At that point, re-read the story; the background will give each a more intense flavor.” – Amazon, 5 stars!

and

“In a word, eerie. Ms. Cuinn’s imagination is on display here in technicolor. Reading her stories is like having a dream. They lull you in that way, you know how dreams always start perfectly believably, and get weird until you wake in a rush thinking, what the hell was that? I credit her clear prose, never overdone, with that ability to pull you in. Her strangeness is always situational, sometimes descriptive but conveyed in a frankness that makes it accessible. Until the hair starts rising on the back of your neck, that is. These are not happy ending stories for the most part, though you could see some of them that way, depending on your point of view. You could see many of them as unsettling, even disturbing–again, depending on your point of view. Cuinn leaves that to the reader. I appreciate that.” – H.W.

You can buy a copy in print from Amazon, here, or get a signed copy of the book directly from me — with a free instant download of the ebook! Choose from print + mobi or print + epub.

You can also download just the ebook for free. Choose from epub, mobi, or PDF. If you need all three formats, download a bundle here.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

SF Signal/Carl V. Anderson called 3 of my stories “Favorite of 2013”

womenprintcoverSMALL

I missed this when it came out* but in December 2013 Carl V. Anderson wrote a list of his favorite short stories of 2013. He reviews short fiction at SF Signal, and he’s been kind about my work in the past — including putting me on his 2014 Hugo nominations list — but discovering this list floored me. In the midst of a list of stories that include the greatest hits of Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Asimov’s, and some amazing collections, he put me. Not just one, but three of the stories in my little self-published collection.

Three.

He says:

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

On a nice Spring day a stray dog sets in motion a series of unexpected events when he digs up and runs off with the forearm of Mr. Liu, a resident of the village’s old cemetery. In his pursuit of the purloined appendage, something he is too attached to (or was until recently) to easily part with, he brings the dead in contact with the living in a manner that is far too familiar and discomforting for those still imbued with their mortal coil. As the villagers and the deceased meet to come to terms that will return the dead to their proper place, events unfold that demonstrate that a lot can be learned from those who have gone before.

Carrie Cuinn’s story mixes the humorous and grotesque with the manners, and the prejudices, of an earlier time. The treatment of the “outsider”, of those “not like us”, is both historical and fantastical in this tale but will be familiar to anyone who has lived long enough to understand this behavior is alive and flourishing today. The dead here are as charming as those in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride; the story appeals when read on a surface level though it contains something more for those willing to look a little closer.

“Monsters, Monsters Everywhere” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

Culinary delights mix with grand adventure in this tale of a monster hunter traveling through remote Mexican villages, dealing with monster troubles big, and small. There is something of a Lost World feel to the jungle the unnamed protagonist finds herself in, and as she takes in her surroundings, providing description to the reader, the suspense builds towards the inevitable confrontation. The jungle touches off reminiscences of her youth and time spent with her grandmother and these are intertwined with the more intense moments of the story creating an even greater degree of tension. There are no wasted moments in this story, even its denouement surprises.

“About the Mirror and its Pieces” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

If you have ever read fairy tales with their stock evil stepmothers, princesses or queens, or viewed film adaptations of the same, and found yourself wondering about the villain’s motivation, Carrie Cuinn provides a possible explanation. This story is the least obviously fantastical of the collection and it explores some difficult subject matter in regards to the treatment of children by parents who, in an ideal world, should know better. Concepts like “entertainment” and “pleasure” that play at least some part in the story choices of readers are misplaced inducements when it comes to stories of this nature. This is not the realm of fiction in general, let alone genre fiction, where most readers want to dwell consistently on their reading travels. Which is what makes issues like those raised in “About the Mirror and its Pieces” ideal for short fiction.

The story is powerful, visceral, and left me feeling quite raw. I work in the mental health field with broken families and stories like this, which remind me thematically of the work Charles de Lint does in his Newford stories, humble me. They take me to a place that I am grateful I have never experienced personally and they help me to develop a more tangible empathy with the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. Stories like this awe me in their ability to open readers’ eyes and they become a foundation upon which one can begin to build understanding and healing.

You can get the collection for free for the rest of this month, here.

* Unless I’m tagged in the post somehow (the author’s included @CarrieCuinn on Twitter, or tagged me on FB, etc) I don’t always know about reviews of my work or people talking about me online. I get Google Alerts but they don’t cover everything. If you ever write or see something positive about me online that you want to make sure I’m aware of, please let me know! Thank you.

Free! All digital editions of “Women and Other Constructs” until the end of the month

womenprintcoverSMALL

Last year, I put out a little collection of short fiction. Mostly previously published, with a few new pieces, and even a sonnet about a murderous robot. It’s called Women and Other Contstructs, and it’s been well-reviewed — a few people even suggested stories from it for a Hugo award. You can buy it on Amazon and B&N and Weightless… Overall, it was a valuable lesson in how to self-publish a collection, and it helped me reach new readers, as well as earn a little money.

But as I move forward with new writing, I can’t help thinking that what I really want is for more readers to find my work. The money and reviews and award nominations are all lovely, but the biggest thrill I get is just from hearing that someone read and enjoyed something I wrote. And you, my readers, have been incredibly kind and supportive over the years. So, I’m giving the book away for the rest of April 2014!

Click on the links below to get it in your preferred format:

ePub

mobi

PDF

If you love the collection and want buy a copy to support my work, or are one of those people who craves a paper book to hold in your hands (I’m one, too!) you can purchase a signed copy of the book here (with free .epub) or here (with free .mobi), or get it the unsigned version on Amazon here.

Note: I’m using my online marketplace to track how many downloads I get; please let me know if you have any trouble with it.

#SFWAPro

Buy a signed copy of WOMEN AND OTHER CONSTRUCTS in print, get the ebook free!

I love my print books, but I read on my tablet more than anything else, because it’s portable, less likely to rumple than a printed page, and carries hundreds of books at once. This means that I read more ebooks than print, but I haven’t quite gotten over the need to own the physical artifact as well as the story. Lately, I’ve been buying ebook copies of the print books sitting on my shelves (just to get through my To Read pile), or buying print books knowing I won’t find time for it unless I get the ebook too… but why should I have to pay extra for a digital copy of a book I already own?

Why should you?

Now, if you buy a signed print copy of my short collection, Women and Other Constructs, you get an instant download of a DRM-free epub or mobi file along with it, free! Check out what’s been called “a varied, powerful collection of stories that showcases the range and talent of an author who will hopefully continue to rise in exposure in the SFF community.” (SF Signal, July 12, 2013) Only $10 plus shipping.

Bundle of signed print book + free instant download of a DRM-free epub file click here

Bundle of signed print book + free instant download of a DRM-free mobi file click here

If you don’t need the print book, you can also get a bundle of three ebook formats $2.99, here, or purchase them individually: ePubMobi, or PDF, for just $1.99

womenprintcoverSMALL

#SFWAPro

Interview, Review, and Links

Fantasy Scroll interviewed me about writing, rejections, and what advice I’d give new writers.

I think one of the most important transitions a writer makes is when they stop relying on the idea to prop up the story and start thinking about how the story reads as well. In fact, most writers don’t get that far, and you can tell that their fiction is all a lead-up to the reveal of the end, or in support of a strong moment that isn’t actually a whole story. My favorite writers can do both, blending a great idea with beautiful sentences.

I hope to be one of those writers. I’m working on it.

Read the rest here.

A Fantastical Librarian reviewed my short collection, Women and Other Constructs. In part, she says:

Despite its short length there is a wealth of stories here and when I sat down to write my review and pick my favourite stories to talk about, I had a really hard time, because every time I’d change my mind. In this collection of stories mostly dealing with the position of women in society and how their (self-)perception is shaped by the demands and expectations of that society, I found hardly a bum note.

She especially enjoyed “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”, “A Cage, Her Arms”, and “About a Mirror and its Pieces”, about which she says:

This story hit me hard and where it hurts…. I love that it not only gave an explanation of her treatment of the little boys in her fairy tale and in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but also made those events tragic, rather than malicious. It was a fabulous story and a great note to end the collection on.

You can find the rest of the review here. Want to read these stories for yourself? Go HERE to buy print or ebook copies of the book.

I’m currently reading “Sex Lives of Monsters” (a book of poetry by Helen Marshall) on my tablet, and a borrowed copy of Nathan Ballingrund‘s “North American Lake Monsters” in print.

Online, I’ve been getting into ClevelandPoetics (a blog about poetry, esp SF and science poetry), RetroRenovation (a site devoted to old-school home design–I’m there for the mid-century modern style), and back episodes of the Small Beer Press Podcast. So that’s where my head is at.

#SFWAPro

Print copies of WOMEN AND OTHER CONSTRUCTS, free to reviewers (or cheap, if you just want one)

IMG_20130716_165324

I have about 30 almost perfect copies of my short collection, Women and Other Constructs, and I want them to belong to someone else. Specifically, I’d like them to go to people who will read and review them. I don’t want to sell them, because there’s a handful of small errors–these were printed by mistake, before the final version of the interior was submitted.

If you’re a reviewer of speculative fiction (SF/F) for an established book review site or publication, I will send you the book for free. I’ll pay shipping; you just tell me where it goes.

If you’re not a reviewer somewhere else, but you want to read the book and will review it on your own website, or Goodreads, Amazon, etc, I’ll give you the book for free if you pay shipping ($3, if you’re in the US). Continue reading

Women and Other Constructs, now on Weightless!

My first collection, Women and Other Constructs, is now available on indie bookseller Weightless. Buy it as a DRM-free epub, mobi, or PDF HERE

You can still buy directly from me. Ebooks available for instant download! You can also order a bundle of signed print book + instant download of all ebook formats, or just the signed book; a bundle of all ebook formats, or individually: ePub, Mobi, or PDF. HERE

Also available via Amazon: Kindle ($1.99) and print ($5.99)

And, there’s a new review of the collection:

July 27, 2013 – “This was my first time picking up anything by Carrie Cuinn and I must say I was very impressed by her simplistic style which can still portray so much. The stories included in the anthology show a great range of ability and talent in multiple genres.” – Goodreads

#sfwapro

Self publishing stats: Women and Other Constructs, First 30+ days

When I published my first collection of short fiction, I said I would add up the stats after 30 days. The highlights:

  • The book cost me $0 to create. I did every bit of the work myself: writing, editing, page layout, cover design, and art. Ebooks and print-ready PDF, too. I also did the distribution, setting up for a variety of ebook sales, and print via Amazon. I chose methods that didn’t have any up front cost at all. The only thing I paid in advance was $10 a month for the online shopping cart.
  • The fiction in the book was worth $462.21–based on a $0.05 per word minimum pro rate for the new writing, and the standard $0.01 minimum reprint rate.
  • I published the book on June 28, and calculated income for the end of June/all of July; that’s about 33 days.
  • I made a total of $195.31 over that time. I haven’t been paid for all of it yet, but that’s the calculated income.

Doing the math

The stories were six reprints I’d previously published, and two stories I hadn’t sold before, along with an intro and notes at the end. Continue reading