Archive for February, 2012

I was fortunate enough to be asked preview a copy of Tales Of Terror And Mayhem From Deep Within The Box, edited by Charles Day and Jessica A. Weiss. This will be released by Wicked East Press mid March and will make a formal debut at the World Horror Conference in Utah next month.

The collection of stories from writers spanning the globe was an eclectic mix of suspense, classic horror, revenge stories, and even some with a Grimm’s Fairy Tale feel. They were many good stories in this anthology but I will just touch upon my favorites.

In no particular order, I start with “Delano” by Jon Michael Emory. To me, Jack in the Boxes are scary.  But this author weaves a tale that is literary and a little sad. It has its spooky elements but first and foremost it’s a solid little story with a twist I didn’t see coming.

Jeremy C. Shipp’s “Balloon Boy,” “Grindylow,” by David C. Hayes, and “The Gift,” by Charles Day & The Evil Little Jester (edited by Hollie Snider), all send us supernatural (and sometimes wickedly evil) beings to take care of the villains plaguing the underdogs who sorely need help. Shipp’s evil clown friend, and Day’s Jack in the Box Jester manage to be thoroughly creepy but still will win the hearts of readers. Who says the good guy can’t be a demented clown or jester? Grindylow’s monster that was formed from tears was a beautifully symbolic creation to punish a neglectful parent.

“Clown Alley,” by Bruce Turnbull had a Tell Tale Heart feel to it. The main character, a circus clown, cannot forgive himself for an (justifiable in my eyes) incident. And just when you think his fear and guilt are all his head…you realize some evil can’t be snuffed out.

In our food category, Eric Dimbley’s “The Sandwich Artist,” which I found to be beautifully written and delightfully sinister, “Alpha Bet,” by Frank Endert, and “Threshold,” by Suzanne Robb made me glad that I’m mostly a vegetarian. These stories were all disturbing-in a good way- and the authors have a knack for getting under your skin.

What I especially liked about this collection was that the stories were not all supernatural. Many dealt with, and demonstrated in gory detail, the horrors of humans. “U.R.O,” but Scott Urban reminded me of Deliverance, but with a State Trooper.  “Cruciform” by Douglas Rinaldi pushed me to the edge of discomfort, but was so well done I had to keep reading. “Trust,” by Peter Giglio started with two characters, long time friends, on a car ride. Giglio gives us a false sense of security that whatever evil lurks will come from the outside, but human nature being what it is, well, you’ll have to read it but it’s an apt psychological snapshot of the dangers of unrequited love.

“Throw Back,” fits nicely into the “Ick!” category. Mark Kurtz did a wonderful job, portraying in redneck detail, a young man who is unaware of his repulsive nature and bops along oblivious until…well, actually he never quite gets it, which is what makes the story memorable.

“Rest Stop,” by Tara Sayers, follows a character running for her life. As the woman’s confusion grows about her situation, so does ours. As she wonders if she’s becoming unhinged, her fear and panic is relayed nicely onto the page. Well done Tara Sayers!

“The Last cold Day,” by Craig Saunders caught me by surprise at the end. The writing was solid and the descriptions vivid and compelling. As was intended by Saunders, I’m sure, the whole time I was reading, I thought I knew what was happening. But that was not the case. Nice twist.

And finally, “Material Possession,” by Gregory L. Norris. I saved this for last because Greg’s stories are always wonderful. I knew his tale would live up to his usual brilliance and it did. The thing about Greg’s writing is that no matter the topic, his sense of atmosphere and characterization is so strong and so refined that you instantly forget you are reading. Within a few lines you are transported to the character’s world, watching his actions, feeling his OCD, growing frustrated right along with him at the continual intrusion of gifts and boxes in a home he works so hard to make his own. Greg’s work, as always, was a pleasurable read and one that always raises the bar in its literary content.

Wicked East Peess has collected some fine works here and I hope the book and the press does really well with it.

Tracy L. Carbone’s novel The Soul Collector  and the Bram Stoker Award nominated Epitaphs is available on Amazon. Please check her main Amazon page as well to view all her fiction work.

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Nice review of Epitaphs. Really pleased it’s getting such good feedback. We’ve got some great authors. http://ow.ly/9dL88

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A few months ago someone told me about Facebook ads. I am leery about anything that charges per click, since there’s no control over how much you can spend. She said however that you CAN decide a limit. The exposure is AMAZING and it’s so cheap it’s scary. I’m going to list a few stats below, as well as the content of my ad. I highly recommend doing this.

On Monday, I placed the ad using my book cover as an image and this as the content  Stand By Me meets X-Files: coming of age YA novel about a girl who …

 

I picked the tags “paranormal activity, Middle school and science fiction.” They suggested elementary school so I took that too. My target audience is 9,819.580 people. Yes, that’s a real number.

You only pay per click. All the times it shows up on someone’s page, is free. They asked for, I think, .51 per click but there was an advanced button to set your own price. The range was .34 to 1.01. So I picked .34. Silly not to right? I then set a maximum of $30. That’s about 90 clicks.

It’s been 72 hours now and I’ve had 8,609 individual pages my ad has been shown on. The ad has appeared on those pages 25,208 times. I’ve had only 12 clicks and have spent $3.65. They are charging me .30 per click, less than I bid, not sure why. This is set to run for a month or until I reach my limit.

 

They have a cool graph that updates constantly and it’s fun to click on throughout the day so you can see how your advertising dollars are being spent. I cannot say enough about this painfully cheap research. I don’t know if it’s affecting my sales, if those 12 clicks turned into 12 sales, but 25,208 is a lot of subliminal advertising.

I can’t imagine how high the numbers will be by the time I reach my $30.

Good luck! I hope you try it.

-Tracy

Tracy L. Carbone’s novel The Soul Collector is available on Amazon. Please check her main Amazon page as well to view all her fiction work.

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On Friday I visited a local middle school in New Hampshire, gearing up to teach Brainstorming to five 7th grade classes in five hours. Until a few days before I wasn’t sure what I’d cover, how I’d entertain the 12 and 13 year olds for that long.

Last summer I took my dog and puppy to a park to play, and ran into a woman who was there with her husband and new baby. We got to talking and she said “I teach 7th grade English.” I was all over that and told her I’d love to come talk to her students in the fall. It took us this long to coordinate the visit partially because my book wasn’t coming out until November and also because I was a little paralyzed by the idea of teaching anything to a whole bunch of kids.

I’m a mother, so I’ve done my share of one-on-one teaching. And I’ve spoken on several panels at writing conferences and at work events. I’m fine with public speaking. But knowing what to say in this situation? Highly intimidating.

A couple of days before, I had written up a Brainstorming handout, shown in the last blog, so I felt slightly more confident. But still…

I walked into the classroom a little past seven A.M. on Friday and instantly felt just fine. The kids were all excited to meet “the author.” They were all so polite and nice. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, which was a routine I’d forgotten was still practiced. It was kind of neat, saying it again with them.

The first class went off without a hitch, and even the students I expected to feign disinterest, had their hands up to volunteer ideas as we co-wrote the story up on the board on a brainstorming map. At the end of the class, the teacher took a photo of the white board. Next week, she’ll put the map up on an overhead and the students will each write their version of the story we started.

After each class was over the teacher photographed all of us together, which was SO FUN. I had no idea how enjoyable the day would be. In the midst of photographing the second class, there was a LOCKDOWN. I was confused at first, because we didn’t have that kind of drill when I was young. We all walked, in orderly fashion, back to the room. We sat on the floor in the corner, silently, for about fifteen minutes. It may have been longer or shorter, not sure. The shades were drawn and at one point someone in the hallway tried to turn the doorknob to confirm it was closed. The experience was a little unnerving but I was truly impressed by how quiet and well-behaved the students were. No one made a peep.

After that, we continued on with the next three classes. For each one, I chose a different main idea, supplied by the children. It was impressive seeing how quickly we could go from a blank white board to one housing a fully fleshed out story and characters. I was as thrilled as they were even if I acted all matter of fact about it. The pupils were amazingly creative. One of them said “This is really fun.” I said “Isn’t it? I do it all the time.”

I sold and signed some books, which was great, but honestly, the best part of the day was knowing I inspired these middle schoolers and showed them how much fun creativity can be.  I’m hoping in 5-6 years to see some of these young adults send in requests to join the New England Horror Writers.

After this experience, I am enthusiastic about visiting other schools in the area. If you are a teacher or parent in New England and would like me to come to your school, please contact me. I’m happy to come in to meet you and outline my lesson plan.

My middle grade mystery novel, The Soul Collector as well as several other short stories in print, and on Kindle, are available on Amazon.

-Tracy

By Tracy L. Carbone

Before you can sit down and write a story or essay, you need to have an idea in place. But what if you don’t?

What if your teacher tells you to write a story to pass in the next day and you don’t have a clue who the main character is, or what happens to him, or her?

That’s where BRAINSTORMING comes in. Dictonary.com defines Brainstorming as:

a sudden impulse, idea, etc. or a fit of mental confusion or excitement.

That about sums it up. When I’m stuck for ideas, I have a few tricks I use to create a story.

The first one is MY CREATIVE NOTEBOOK I read a book called Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. In it he said to carry around a notebook and write down everything you see. That sounds silly I know, but at the end of each day, you should try to write down any images you saw that struck you. For example: old man in bright white sneakers, twin girls with red hair, dog with three legs, fat man in blue sweatshirt walking dog with blue sweater, Albino woman dragging crying toddler by his wrist.

Those aren’t real examples. I just made those up but those are the kinds of things I write in my notebook. When I’m stuck for story ideas, sometimes I open that notebook and within a few minutes, I’ve discovered some wonderful writing prompts.

THE WRITER’S TOOLBOX The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan is a kit filled with writing prompts. This box is filled with Popsicle sticks containing First Sentences, Non Sequiturs (transitions) and The Last Straw. The Last Straw sticks “create a dramatic arc.” They create conflict so your story doesn’t just drag on.

The kit also contains a huge stack of Sixth Sense Cards, which each contain images. Some examples are: someone’s red leather journal, a crooked umbrella, a child with wings, a chewed on pencil. Finally, there are four wheels in the box. One for Protagonist, Goals, Action, Obstacles.

CREATIVE BLOCK by Lou Harry. This is a small book, shaped like a block. It’s filled with pictures and phrases to spark your imagination. once you get a lot of great ideas floating around in your head, what’s next?

You know how sometimes you wake up from a dream and you don’t remember exactly what happened, only that there were lot of strange images? Often that’s how a story starts. You have a lot of ideas in your mind but no plan. You can’t be quite sure what’s going to happen but you know you’ve got plenty to work with. You need to organize all those thoughts to make a plan.

And this is when I make my BRAINSTORMING MAP. I have attached a copy here. Start with a central idea or question in the middle, in a box. For example, “Four teens find a suitcase filled with money.” From there put boxes  around it for all the characters. Branching off from each character, write ideas, traits, hopes, and connections to the other characters. Remember this is all stuff you’re making up so use your imagination. Once you start writing, you’ll be surprised how quickly the page fills with ideas.

Once you have a map of ideas in front of you, then it’s a lot easier to write a story. It will almost write itself.

I hope you have a great time writing, and that these brainstorming techniques will spark your creativity! You can find links to all the books I mentioned on my website at www.tracylcarbone.com.

My book, The Soul Collector as well as several other short stories in print, and on Kindle, are available on Amazon.