Category Archives: How To Eat Fried Furries

My Appearance July 4th Weekend At InConJunction XXXI

Insignia of the Circle of Janus, the fan organization running the con.

I’m excited to announce I’ll be appearing at InConJunction XXXI (July 1-3, at the Indianapolis Marriott East).

I can’t say enough good things about this con.  There’s lots of brainy nerds there, and there are many, many presentations on actual science in addition to SF, Fantasy, & Horror.  It’s a fun, relaxing, laid-back atmosphere.  The focus is really about interacting with readers, rather than professional networking.  Which is nice (I’ll get a lot of the latter in mid-July when I jet off to Boston for ReaderCon).

In addition to signing copies of How To Eat Fried Furries and Werewolves & Shape Shifters, I’ll be appearing on and/or moderating several panels.  Here’s my programming schedule (as given me 6/23, subject to change…as these things sometimes do).

 

Friday:  No panels

Saturday:

10:00 a.m.  “The Weirdest Speculative Fiction Books We’ve Ever Read”

3:00 p.m.   “Death to Writer’s Block”

5:00 p.m.  “Beyond Blade Runner:  The Work of Phillip K. Dick in Fiction & Cinema”

9:00 p.m.  “Religion in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror”

10:00 p.m. “Candlelight Horror”

Sunday: 

10:00 a.m. “Publishing in the Future”

If you’re a reader in the Indy area (or in the Midwest, generally), I’d love to meet you at this event.  If you think you might be coming, leave a comment after this post so I’ll know to keep an eye peeled for you!

 

Reader Mail! (…in Which Our Heroine Takes The No-Furry Pledge)

Back in the old days, comic books used to always include a letters column near the end of each issue.  I never wrote a fan letter, but I enjoyed reading those mailed in by others.  It fostered a sense of community among those who read the comic.  If I were tech-savvy, I’d start a message board.  But I’m not tech-savvy.  If I were further along in my career, I’d have someone volunteer to do this for me.  But as far as my career goes, I’m a baby.  Seriously, in terms of building a writing career I’m, like, a genuine 100% crappin’ my diaper, spitting up, occasionally cute-smiling baby.  So a message board is out of the question.

Besides,these days there are a number of ways readers reach out to authors.  I’ve gotten feedback from Cushingistas via Twitter, comments left on older, more obscure posts of my blog, etc.)

So, in order to centralize all the feedback in one place, I’m starting an irregularly-published “letters” column.  Moreover, I hereby promise that I won’t cherry-pick the most favorable feedback. Yes, in the interest of even-handedness, I’ll even highlight your hate “mail” (hate-tweet, hate-status, hate…well, get get the point.)

To whit…

Back in January, self-proclaimed furry Christopher started a thread on my almost-never-noticed Amazon.com message board with the ominous title “WTF are you?”  He goes on to write:

*

From the title “How to Eat Fried Furries”, am I to assume you’re yet another

in the misinformed about what a furry fan really is, or are you one of the

a’holes who knows nothing about it and decided to write a book bashing us?

*

I never got around to answering him on the Amazon board, so I guess I’ll go ahead and give an answer here (while I’m on the subject.)

Christopher:  Your question presumes that I’m either A. uninformed or B. an “a’hole” who knows nothing about furries and wrote the book to bash the furry community.  Surely, this is a false dilemma.  It could be rightly said that the furries in my book aren’t even furries.  In fact, one of longer reviews of the book makes that observation.  To me, the book was really more about society trying to stitch together pseudo-solutions (for example, forcing people into animal costumes to rationalize cannibalism as a remedy for world hunger).  I even thought about giving the book another title (PANTOMIME PLANET was one possibility I was kicking around).  But ultimately, HOW TO EAT FRIED FURRIES had a definite Bizarro feel to it, and a Python feel to it, too (can’t you just hear Eric Idle saying that?).

However, if it makes you feel better, I hereby promise to never write a book about furries again.  I’m sure that will delight the furries (as well as any potential agents reading this).

Moving right along…

In March things began to improve.  I woke up bleary-eyed one Saturday morning to find a tweet from Travis, a reader from Australia, who really dug my story “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Piggy Class” in the John Skipp anthology, Werewolves & Shape Shifters:  Encounters with the Beast Within.  As a newer author, I have to confess this is the sort of stuff that thrills me.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Australia.  Chances are, I’ll never travel there (my only foreign travel was a trip to Quebec, Canada a few years ago).  But my story’s in Australia — in bookstores and in the mind of a reader who enjoyed it enough to let me know.

Tweets being, by their nature, concise, Travis keeps his praise short and sweet.

*

“The short story ‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Piggy Class” by @NicoleCushing is brilliant…”

*

(Now all I have to do is figure out the exchange rate between U.S. and Australian dollars so I can properly reimburse the man).

May brought more positive feedback from Fried Furries reader Ted, who left a neat-o message in the comments section on the I Read Odd Books review site.

Ted says…

*

A wonderful book , the next time any misguided vagina hater

points out that women are not equipped to produce subversive

humour I will point them to this book…I really enjoyed Cushing’s

style ,the way each each story is interlinked and I even tried

some of the recipes but I was unable to locate Bunnybeer so

maybe that’s why the hamburger pie ended up a bit dry.

*

Leaving aside, for the moment, the small point that most misogynists don’t hate the vagina per se but rather everything else that surrounds it, I enjoy Ted’s enthusiasm for the books’ unconventional structure.  Some other folks (not naming names, let’s just call them Ublishers-Pay Eekly-Way) were ambivalent on the matter…which is better than totally getting panned…but not as good as being lavished with unreserved praise.  Alas, Fried Furries seems to have landed in PW purgatory.  (To check out the PW review, go to the Fried Furries Amazon.com page. )

(By the way Ted spelled “humour”, I wonder if he’s another one of them-thar foreigners who like my book!  I hope so.  I’m not dissing American readers, but there’s just something really cool about having readers in other countries).

As for my subversive humor/humour, I’ve been playing around with a variety of different styles lately.  Some more humo(u)rous than others. Some not humo(u)rous at all.  Some of the stuff I’ve been writing lately has just been unrelentingly grim.  But I suspect a dash of dark humo(u)r will always weave itself into everything I write.

Finally…June brought us new reader Larry, who offered some more praise for Werewolves & Shape Shifters (left as a comment on an antediluvian — well, about one year old — post I wrote announcing the TOC).  There’s some kudos for my story, but the bulk of the praise really goes out to editor John Skipp.

*

Just finished this book, its incredibly awesome and your story was amazing!

I especially liked the range and variety of authors, from the classic masters to the

current trailblazers,such as yourself. John Skipp does the best anthologies ever.

*

Larry:  You’ll be delighted to know that Skipp has another anthology in the series coming out, Demons:  Encounters With The Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, & The Possessed.  And have you already checked out his Zombie anthology from a few years back?  Anyway, thanks for the kind words.  Being in the same table of contents as Lovecraft, Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin is probably the high water mark of my career so far.  I’m now focusing on crafting even better stories than “Piggy Class”, and I’m at work on my first novel, too.

By the way, Larry maintains a fascinating blog about all things boobies horror (wherein there are photos of several Cthulhu/”My Little Pony” hybrids that are to die for…no pun intended).  Y’all should check it out.

Well, that’s all I have energy for tonight, kiddies.  I’ll try to provide this “Reader Mail” feature every so often.  If you’d like to give feedback (good, bad, or — like PW — ambivalent) about my fiction, feel free to contact me on Facebook, Twitter, this blog, or — if you must be old fashioned about it — via email at nicolecushingwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

We Interrupt Your Painful, Absurdly Meaningless Life For News About The Vonnegut Fundraiser

Art by Vonnegut, on display at the Vonnegut Memorial Library (photo by either hubbie or me)

Thanks to everyone who bought a copy of How To Eat Fried Furries or Steve Lowe’s Muscle Memory during our May fundraiser for Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.  As you may recall, we agreed to donate royalties earned for May sales of these books to the Library to help our fellow-Hoosiers preserve the memory of one of America’s greatest dark satirists.

The preliminary sales reports are in, and it’s estimated that, together, Steve and I have raised thousands  dozens of dollars in support of the cause, and will be forking over the dough once the official totals are determined and paid out to us, some time around August.

The Winner of the HOW TO EAT FRIED FURRIES Short Story Contest Revealed!

The How To Eat Fried Furries short story contest represents my first stab at anything even remotely resembling editing.  The goals of the contest were two-fold:  first of all, I was looking for a unique way to get the word out about my short story collection, How To Eat Fried FurriesBut more importantly, I just wanted to showcase high-quality short fiction.  I wanted to offer pro rate pay for just one story of 2,000 words or less.  I wanted to select a tale that rose to the occasion and made me jealous of the author.  I wanted a story so well-written that it made me envious I didn’t write it first.

The submissions came in all shapes and sizes — with the fantasy, horror, and bizarro genres most well-represented (where’s the love, SF?).  Several of the stories were clever and/or weird.  While I’m a big fan of smart, weird fiction, when all is said and done I need a story to engage my emotions.  It wasn’t enough for a story to  tickle my neurons.  It had to jab at my heart, too.

One story emerged that hit all of the criteria.  It offered a gut-wrenching plot well-told with active, visceral language.  The story made me flinch — hell, forget flinch — it made me wince (which, as those acquainted with me can tell you, is no easy feat).  As I read through this story, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t contact the author and convince her to submit this to some other market.  You know, some, well, better established market than the How To Eat Fried Furries Short Story Contest.  For a moment, I tried to imagine how that publishing credit would look on a cover letter, and I have to admit I felt a moment of chagrin for my decision to give the contest such an odd name.  I thought of telling her that she should be sending this story to a good, solid pro horror market. I didn’t feel worthy of publishing this story.

But then I remembered that the whole point of the contest was to get just this sort of story.  Something so good that I felt envious I didn’t write it first.  The kind of story I felt that I should snatch up, out of fear that if I passed on it, I’d live to see the day it showed up in the pages of Shock Totem, Chizine, or Dark Faith II.

Sara J. Larson has written such a story.  It’s entitled “Freedom”, and I can’t wait to show it off here at NicoleCushing.Com.

I want to thank everyone who submitted to the contest, and everyone who has supported How To Eat Fried Furries.  This has been a fantastic learning experience for me, and I’m delighted to be able to bring my blog’s readers this story in the very near future.

What I’ve Been Up To Lately… (In Which Our Heroine Describes — By Way of Explanation For Her Recent Dearth of Blogging — The Various Creative Projects She’s Pursuing)

I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to for the past few months.  I notice talented authors like Theodora Goss contributing to their blogs almost-daily and sort of scratch my head.  I honestly don’t know how they do it and attend to everything else they have going on.

I’m continuing to get the word out about my Eraserhead Press book, How To Eat Fried Furries (a very strange, transgressive, darkly satirical collection of linked short stories set in a world where farmers raise furries — you know, people in animal costumes — as livestock).  So if this seems at all like it might be your sort of bag  please, please, please order a copy from Amazon.  I’m donating all royatlies I earn from May sales to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, so this is a particularly helpful month in which to buy it.

(Note to self:  “please, please, please order a copy?” — what’s this marketing stuff started to do to me — was I just begging readers to buy my book?  I fear my idol, Thomas Ligotti (or at least his protagonist Frank Dominio) would classify such behavior as swinish.)

At the same time as I’m pushing the Bizarro, I’m also indulging a massive non-Bizarro (as in, regular old speculative fiction) project — a dark SF novel tentatively titled The Sober Assassin (elevator pitch is as follows *clears throat* “It’s Blade Runner meets The West Wing meets A&E’s Intervention“).

(Note to self:  why is it a semi-convention to pitch books by describing them as hybrids of different movies or TV shows?  Alas, even more swinishness, I’m surprised I’m not growing a piggy-snout right now!)

I’m particularly excited by The Sober Assassin.  I’ve made previous cracks at writing a novel, but I’ve never approached it with much in the way of self-discipline.  Last year I started to write a Bizarro novella that I thought might become a novel, but ultimately it didn’t.  I can say with some confidence that I think that this novel is at least going to find its way to completion (and with the first draft estimated to weigh in at around 110,000 words — what a completion).

I’m about 2/3 of the way through the first draft now.  My goal is to finish it out by June 26th (a day very special to me, as those closest to me can attest).

My plan all along was to write about 5,000 words of the novel each week, and –with only one or two exceptions — I’ve managed to do exactly that.  There’s no guarantee the novel’s going to sell, of course (though I think it’s salable — after all, I wouldn’t be devoting all this time to it if I didn’t).  Even if it doesn’t sell, though, I think the whole thing has been worthwhile.

One unexpected benefit of writing the novel has been that I sense that my overall level of craft has gone up a notch.  There’s something about living day-in, day-out with one, long, story that seems to be changing my brain’s focus.  During the course of writing the novel, I’ve written two  short stories that just sort of gushed out of me all at just one or two sittings — something that’s never happened to me before.  I also think I’m more observant about what works and what doesn’t. I’m trying some new approaches, and feel (subjectively) like I’m growing as an author.

In short, I’m learning.  Which isn’t really saying much.  I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do all of our lives, right?

Right.

After I finish the novel’s first draft, I’m planning to let it sit for a spell and then move on to working on some non-fiction work (writing a scholarly piece on Phillip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft), and then go through the likely-grueling process of editing.

Oh, I should add that I’m reading through stories for the How To Eat Fried Furries short story contest, too.  And reading lots of other fiction, too.  Just finished Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan and now moving on to China Mieville’s The City & The City.

And I’ll be going to a few conventions this summer.  InConJunction in Indianapolis and ReaderCon are definites.  I’m tentatively planning on going up to GenCon just for one day, and I’m kicking around the idea of pulling a similar stunt in respect to ConText  (I’d love to stay longer — but hotel, etc. jacks up the price).

So that’s what’s going on with me, fellow-weirdos.  What’s happening in your neck of the woods?

“A Classy Way To Commit Suicide”

Vonnegut was quoted as saying cigarette smoking is “a classy way to commit suicide.”

If you go to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, you can actually see these ordinarily-prosaic implements of self-destruction enshrined in a  glass display case.  It’s probable that the only reason the Pall Malls survived the chain-smoking author is that this particular pack fell behind his book shelf.

I fully support cigarettes enshrined in a glass display case.

If you do, too, support the Vonnegut Library by purchasing a copy of How To Eat Fried Furries  (the royalties I earn for May sales will be donated to the Vonnegut Library).  For more photos of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (and more info on the fundraiser) check out my earlier blog posts.

Tobacco: Nature's Revenge?

Indiana’s Most Famous Rejection Letter

I recently blogged about my discovery of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis (www.vonnegutlibrary.org).   I was so impressed with it that I decided to start a fundraiser.  I’ll be donating all of the royalties I earn for May sales of How To Eat Fried Furries to the Vonnegut Library, so that they can continue the work of championing the literary, artistic, and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist, and Indianapolis native.

My friend and fellow-Hoosier Steve Lowe (author of Muscle Memory), has joined me in this fundraiser.  Royalties he earns for May sales of Muscle Memory will be donated to the Vonnegut Library, too.

You can purchase both books at Amazon.com.

Places like the Vonnegut Library are part of our country’s cultural infrastructure.  We need them.  Goodness knows we especially need them here in the Midwest, where such resources are relatively scarce.

I posted a few pictures of the Vonnegut Library last week, but I want to spend the next week posting some additional photos to better give a sense of all the fun stuff visitors can explore there.

Today’s picture is a doozy, and features one of my favorite items on display.

At Least It Wasn't A Form Letter...

Apparently early on in his career, Vonnegut submitted three pieces to The Atlantic Monthly.  One of these pieces appears to have been a predecessor to one of his best-known books, Slaughterhouse Five.  Alas, it wasn’t good enough for the editor, who explained that he’d looked at all three works and:

“I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to be well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.”

Woe unto the editor whose rejection letter ends up behind glass in the author’s museum!

Of course, my photograph of the letter can only do it so much justice.  You must check out this artifact for yourself!  Visit the Vonnegut Library (virtually) at http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org or (even better) drop by the Vonnegut Library in downtown Indy (check their website for hours they’re open to the public).

May Royatlies For HOW TO EAT FRIED FURRIES To Benefit Vonnegut Memorial Library

Nicole With The ACTUAL Typewriter Vonnegut Used In The '70s

Nicole messin' around with the first paragraph of a new short story on a REPLICA of Vonnegut's '70s Typewriter, in a replica of his writing room.

Last Friday afternoon (Good Friday, the Christians call it; though I suspect the crucified man himself might  have used a somewhat more colorful adjective), I made a pilgrimage of the most sacrilegious variety.  While the faithful spent their holy day in church, I traveled up to Indianapolis to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (www.vonnegutlibrary.org)

Although he spent the vast majority of his writing career in New York, Vonnegut (a one-time honorary President of the American Humanist Association, environmentalist, and scribbler of not a few books of dark satire) was born and raised in Indianapolis.  Thus, Indy is home to this small  — but important — working monument to the man, his fiction, and his activism.

I’m not a native Hoosier.  I grew up in Maryland.  But I do take pride in the fact that Hoosiers are actually doing something to build and preserve our cultural infrastructure (while Maryland, last I heard, couldn’t get its act together to keep its Edgar Allan Poe House open).  The Vonnegut Memorial Library is a stellar example of what can be done with a relatively small space.  It deserves support.

So, I’m donating all of my royalties from May’s sales of How To Eat Fried Furries to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, in hopes that it will give it some well-deserved attention and maybe even make a meaningful dent in their electric bill.  Every little bit helps, you know.   My friend Steve Lowe (another Hoosier author of weird fiction) has also lent his support to this effort, and will be doing a similar fundraiser in May.

Take a gander at some other cool pics from my visit…and set aside ten bucks to buy How To Eat Fried Furries, and another ten to buy Steve’s book, Muscle Memory in May! (P.S. — I plan on posting more pics in the near future).

The Tombstone Reads: "Life Is No Way To Treat An Animal"

Vonnegut, The Environmentalist..

Short Story Contest Deadline Looms…Friday 4/15

Just a reminder that you have until Friday to submit fiction for the How To Eat Fried Furries Short Story Contest.  I’m offering professional rate pay (5 cents per word) for short fiction up to 2,000 words (maximum pay day, $100).  Details contest rules are available at https://nicolecushing.wordpress.com/about-the-fried-furries-mocon-vi-short-story-contes (sorry to post the long url, but links aren’t working for me today on WordPress).

I’m excited to report that I’ve received some more stories lately, which is great.  The more I have to choose from, the better.  I’m looking forward to having a substantial number of stories to choose from.  Please note that I’m looking for stories in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and bizarro genres.

Short Story Contest Entries Due April 15th…

I love short stories.

Science fiction, horror, fantasy, bizarro — the genre itself makes almost no difference.  I pretty much enjoy it all.   Don’t get me wrong —  novels are awesome, too.   But I take a special delight in the intensity delivered by a well-written speculative fiction shorty.

That’s the primary reason I’m running the How To Eat Fried Furries/Mo*Con VI short story contest.  I want to get my feet wet as an editor, and self-financing my own “star search” for a talented short story writer seems like a decent enough way to get started.  Actually, “star search” makes it sound like I’m looking for novice talent only, but I’m open to submissions from everyone.  What really matters, to me, is the quality of the story.  I want to discover an exquisitely crafted piece of  fiction to show off to the world.  I want to discover the kind of short story I’m jealous I didn’t write myself.

Because I’m looking for such high quality work, the prize money is a pro-rate pay check (for fiction up to 2,000 words; therefore the maximum prize is $100).  I’m a big fan of writers getting paid.   Not “token” payment.  Real payment.  Something you can buy groceries with.  In addition, the winning story will be published both here and at the official Mo*Con website.

Now, admittedly, there was another motive, too.   I was looking for a unique way to promote my first book, How To Eat Fried Furries. I wanted a promotion that didn’t sound like it was cooked up by a couple of “Morning Zoo” radio DJs.  Hopefully, I’ve succeeded. Only time will tell.

To date, I’ve gotten only a handful of submissions.  While I’m happy to have gotten those submissions, I really want a big pool of fiction to choose from.  And while I welcome submissions from within the bizarro community, I also want submissions outside of the bizarro community, too.  Horror, SF, fantasy writers — I’m looking at you.  Send me your stories.

The deadline is April 15th, people.  The winners will be announced during Mo*Con VI (May 20th-May 22nd, in Indianapolis).  The rules are here at the linkety-link.  You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  Take this one.