Writing Block and Happiness

It’s funny the things that can block you from writing. Since I was about five years old, and learned to relay the creative/crazy thoughts in my head into the written word (in very bad penmanship which has not improved) it’s been mostly easy.

I’d come home everyday itching to transform what happened in my day from hum drum to exciting, to take disturbing life events and give them happy endings in stories, and mainly to purge myself of whatever angst I was compelled by at that particular point in time. Some periods in my life were more productive than others. From the time my daughter was born, for example, until she was three and I got a divorce, I couldn’t write. I should have, as it might have relieved my stress but I couldn’t. I was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t even give it much thought.

Once I got a divorce, I wrote like a maniac, non stop for years and years. A lot of other life stuff happened in between and I wrote through all of it. The more stress the better as far as my fiction was concerned. My body not so much. I was always losing or gaining weight, battling migraines and hives. I got an inhaler a couple of times because I had trouble breathing. And then there was the time I had to get a heart halter monitor because of all irregular heartbeats. In the end, there’s never anything wrong, just drama that fueled good fiction.

So the last six months I’ve had my share of drama but probably about 75-80% less than I’ve been used to most of my life. And what little there is, I shrug off. The problem is that I’m content. I met my boyfriend coincidentally when all the drama stopped, or more likely he was at the heart of my recognizing insane situations and walking away.

Or maybe it was just time to let go of bad habits and rabble-rousers. In any event, because I’m content and happy and not riddled with angst and worry, I find myself pretty blocked from a creative standpoint. I have nothing to say, nothing to exorcise.

I spend a good deal of time marketing my work so that takes keeps me busy. And another chunk goes to editing my old stuff for the Kindle and an upcoming collection being put out by a new press. And then there’s the NEHW and Epitaphs and the marking of that. But when I was really  “writing,” I always found time. I had to or else I’d implode from all the stuff in my head.

But now…well, as much as I hate that I haven’t been writing much new fiction, it is really nice to feel like this: Unburdened, calm, not battling my responsibilities alone.  Things come up, life isn’t perfect, but now I have someone to lean on and that makes all the difference.

I’m sure I’ll find a way to be happy and to write, but in the meantime, taking a break isn’t such a bad thing. If I can learn to live without stress certainly I can learn to write without it.

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.

Winner of the 7th Grade Writing Contest

Last month I visited a middle school in New Hampshire and taught five classes of seventh graders all about Brainstorming. As I posted about in an earlier blog, for each classroom I started with a central idea, then branched off to show characters  and their actions to create a story. Each group got a different story idea. Afterwards, their teacher photographed the brainstorming charts on the white board and each class was charged with writing a full story based on our extensive brainstorming and outlining.

The winning story from all those entries goes to Kaity Moore. For a seventh grader she’s a heck of a writer. I was pleasantly surprised when I read her story. Great job Kaity! I hope she pursues writing as she’ll be a great addition to the craft.

Dylan’s Dream

By Kaity Moore

Entry one: So I have a journal. I don’t care. My therapist advised me to use it.

Yeah, I’m Dylan and I have emotional probs. So, I’m really shy. I spit a lot and I have long black hair with razor sharp bangs that slide just over my left eye. I’m a pyromaniac, and now that we’re talking ‘bout fires, I’m burned on my face. Just, don’t ask. Okay, I’m done writing in this journal o’ mine. I wanna tell you the story of THE DAY I WON THE LOTTERY.

It was a sunny day, that April 27th and my dad and I were at the gas station. Standing outside the station was a man dressed well, in a charcoal gray suit, with a black tie and loafers. He was holding a huge cardboard sign with the words, “1, 5, and 10 bucks each! No better deal!” I asked him what his sign was about, and he asked if I wanted to buy a lottery ticket.

“Purchases over five dollars are going to go towards a foundation of your choice,” he said to us. I looked at my dad and he nodded to the man.

“We want the dollar one, sorry.” My dad pointed at the ticket with aliens on it. “Here’s a coin, Dylan. You can scratch the numbers off.”

The man gave me the ticket and smiled. I scratched off the numbers and handed it to my dad. “Dylan, you just scratched off the winning numbers!” My dad yelled happily.

“How much did we win?” I asked the man, as my dad gave him back the lottery ticket.

“How about, you just won the lottery!” The man smiled. “The winning prize is 89.2 billion. It’s been all over the news. Haven’t you watched it?”

“No, not lately but more importantly, we just won how much?” My dad asked gaily. The man handed over a white envelope, and my dad checked to make sure its contents were valid and then he shook the man’s hand. “89.2 billion dollars! Here’s your check.”

“Thank you.” My dad said. The businessman nodded and my dad and I walked back to our car.

When we pulled into the driveway, my mother ran out of the house, her ankle-length skirt flowing in the wind when she yelled to my dad, “Oh my gosh, Mark is it true? You won us the lottery?”

“Nope, I didn’t honey. Dylan did.”

My dad rustled my shiny black hair. “Now we can afford surgery to make your face smooth again.”

“Dylan, that’s so great of you! Now we can travel more.” My mom and dad winked at each other. “But Dylan, since you hate flying, I guess we’ll leave you at Cameron’s house.”

I squinted. Cameron was my best friend and all, but my parents were going to go away on a trip and just leave me here? That’s cool, not.

“I have a great way to celebrate, let’s go to the hospital right now and get your surgery done!” My mom smiled. “C’mon, hop in the car!”

While sitting in the back seat of the car, I think of all the cool things I’ll be able to do when my parents leave on their trip. I take out my journal and start writing.

Entry two: Skydiving, scuba diving, cliff diving, so much diving! I can do it all when they’re gone. Ha-ha, yes!

When we finally get to the hospital, I’m sent to the ER and the doctors start right away, demanding me to quickly drink the elixir, so I fall asleep faster.

Two hours later, I’m brought out to my parents who are waiting in the hallway. They guide me to a wall mirror, my dad blindfolding me with his hands. “1, 2, 3, open!” my dad says, as my eyes blur from being shut. Then, when they’re finally clear, I glance at the mirror and gawk in surprise, rubbing my hand down my now visible cheek bones, making sure what I see is the real thing. “Oh man dude, I’m so beautiful now. Like, whoa!” I laugh, still feeling around my face.

A couple days later, my mom and dad kiss me goodbye as they bring in my last of three bags I’ve brought to Cam’s house. “Bye sweetie, we’ll pick you up sometime next week. Call us every night.” My mom kissed my head and backed from the door.

“Mom, I’m thirteen, and you’re treating me like I’m five.” I say as Cam stands next to me, snickering.

“Just making sure you’re safe, we don’t want to leave you here, but-”

“Dad, I’m thiiirrrrr-teeeeeennn. I’m fine.”

“Do you have your pills?” He tilts his head, gaze fixed on mine.

“Yeah dad, now bye, love you too and all that mushy gushy lovey-dovey stuff that you old people want to hear now-a-days.” Cameron and I laughed.

A week after my parents have been gone, Cam and I call our best friend Ayla, sometimes called A, asking her to come over, that we had a surprise for her, not knowing that her surprise is my face. She knocks on the door and yells, “Hello, Cameron, do you have my present?”

“It’s not a present, Ayla, it’s a surprise.” I say back to her, unsure of why we’re talking behind doors.

“Whatever, open the door and hand it over.” She says as I open it slowly, then jumping out from the side and scaring her.

“Omigod.” She gasps bringing her hands to her mouth. “Your – your face, it’s,” she pauses. “Smooth!”

I laugh and gaze at her wonder-filled, envy green eyes. “Yeah,” I say with just a hint of sarcasm. “My parents won the lottery, they got me surgery as soon as possible and I’m staying here for a couple days ’cause they went on a trip. They’ll be back to get me tomorrow, all ready for school on Monday.”

Ayla looks at Cameron. “Dude, you seriously have got to get in the sun once in a while, you’re whiter than a ghost.” She laughs, making a joke at his Albinism. Cameron never really cared when people made jokes anymore; he’d gotten used to it. He laughed with her as they made more and more comments about the disease.

The next day, my parents brought me home, and the day after that, I got up, showered, smoothed my face, and headed off to school for the first time since surgery. I walked through the halls confident with Cam and Ayla by my side as everyone gaped and gossiped about the change in my looks. I overheard a lot of girls say I’m gorgeous and that they never could’ve expected a dork like me to be this hot.

Then I got tapped on the back. I turned around and a bunch of popular kids were standing behind me. “Dylan, right?” The girl said, pushing her curly blonde hair behind her shoulders.

“Uh, yeah?” I squinted at her and the group of boys surrounding her.

“Listen,” one of them said, “you’re like, totally cool now. Come with us.”

“But, I’m with my friends.” I looked around nervously, pointing backwards at Ayla and Cameron.

“No, uh, do what you want, Dylan. It’s fine, really.” Ayla stuttered, obviously intimidated by the popular crowd standing near her. I never really understood why she wasn’t one of them. She’s a total mean girl, she has the most luscious, wavy blonde hair I’ve ever seen, envy green eyes, and a perfect structure. Plus, her family was extremely rich, so she had all designer clothing and her own alpaca. Her alpaca had anger issues though, so that was always weird when I went over.

“Excuse me, Ayla? You don’t get to make the decisions anymore. You dropped out of the popular crowd years ago, remember?”

Ayla rolled her big green eyes. “Whatever.”

“Well, I’m going to …” I paused, letting Cam and A finish the sentence as I pointed backwards and walked away with the popular kids, Randy, Ray Ray, Kurt, and Stevie. They were all so gorgeous with their silky hair and designer uniforms worn in a public school. I never really ever thought about hanging out with Stevie, the prettiest girl in school, besides Ayla, but here I was, walking down the halls side by side, laughing at Randy’s jokes with her. She even asked me to hang out after school, but I said no, considering all the homework I had to get done. I could tell she was upset, but she just smiled and said, “Okay, maybe another time,” and walked off without me.

Soon after becoming a popular kid, I was insisted on wearing designer uniforms and getting my left ear pierced. I talked to my dad about it and he said he’d take me to get a couple uniforms next weekend. My cousin Ryan pierced my ear for me. He did it professionally, but it hurt more than I’d expected.

After about a month of being a preppy, stuck-up kid of the popular crowd, I started forgetting about Ayla and Cameron, my two best friends. Ray Ray and I always lit fires together after school, and I’d sit on the ground with Stevie roasting marshmallows and making S’Mores. Kurt, Randy, and I didn’t have much in common, but we had a couple sleepovers at my house, which was now a full mansion, with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and my own man cave, thanks to my winning scratch ticket.

For five months, I was popular, until that day on September 4th when everything changed. The popular crowd had a campfire one night without me, while I was away in New Mexico for the weekend, and when I came back, the police and my school principal had asked me all kinds of questions about a small campfire which spread into a wildfire, killing three people and burning two kids’ faces.

Those two kids were Ayla and Cam. I was watching the news one night when Cam and A came on, interviewed.

“I jumped into the fire, thinking my pyromaniac “friend” was the one who started all this. I started to think about why I cared, ’cause he abandoned me and my friend Cam for the,” Ayla gulped, “popular crowd.”

Next, they zoomed in on Cameron, who spoke words I never thought I’d hear from his mouth.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the cause of this fire was Dylan Drescher. He’s a maniac. Pyromaniac, that is. We were friends, but he came to be a snob and joined some other kids, but he doesn’t care about me and A now. I really hope you’re watching this Dylan, even if you didn’t start the fire. What was once your face is now mine and Ayla’s because we’re good enough people to forgive your mistake and even jump into a fire, willing to save you, but I guess you just don’t care, dude.”

I yelled at the T.V. “I wasn’t even there! I was in New Mexico, not Pennsylvania!”

I called up Stevie and started totally going off on her, yelling, saying that she was the cause of all this, asking her why she framed me, why she did any of this, but she didn’t answer. “I’m done with you people.” I screamed into the phone.

I ran to Cameron’s house, knowing Ayla would be there right about now and apologizing for everything, explaining that I wasn’t even here in Pennsylvania, I was on vacation in New Mexico. Even promising I would pay for their facial reconstruction surgery, everything.

We became friends again, but I couldn’t live like this. I pulled a lighter out of my pocket, lit up the grass in Cameron’s back yard as Ayla and Cam screamed, “No! No, Dylan don’t do this!” but I couldn’t live like this, knowing I hurt my best friends. So I lied down in grass and burned. I was just about two feet away from walking into the light when I woke up in bed and gasped. “It was all a dream?”

-The End

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.

Goodreads, Giveaways and Ads

A writer friend of mine mentioned last week that he put some of his books up on Goodreads. I told him I had put my YA mystery The Soul Collector up there. So far so good. He asked, “Did you do a giveaway?” I didn’t know what that meant. He explained that there’s a “Giveaway” link. He said he had great luck with it. You offer a few up, and many people who wouldn’t otherwise notice your book are suddenly signing up for the giveaway.

People like to win stuff.

I signed up to give away 5 print copies of The Soul Collector. It was a five day trial ending 3-12. So far 492 people signed up to try and win. 64 have added it to their To-Be Read pile. Not bad for the price of five books plus postage. And of course the hope is that each of the winners will write an Amazon or Goodreads review. 

So that led me to see how else I could drum up the interest and get some reviews by offering FREE stuff. Today I set up a series of Tweets (via Hootsuite) offering free pdfs of The Soul Collector to anyone who wanted to review one, and offering a signed copy to the top retweeter. Not sure how that is going yet as this campaign is only about an hour old.

My Facebook ad ended the other day. In total I spent $50 in a month. The average click ended up costing me about $.30. The total clicks were 164. Total impressions, meaning how many times it appeared on someone’s wall, was 496,000

Now this book isn’t self published, like my Kindle stories, so I can’t keep checking Amazon to see if all this interest is resulting in sales. But I’m hopeful.

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.

Evil Jester Digest Volume One

I’m very happy to report that my story, “The Girl Who Drowned” is appearing in Evil Jester Digest Volume One.  It’s available on Kindle now. It’s formal print release will be at the World Horror Conference at the end of March in Utah.

10 Stunning Stories from the Masters and Rising Stars of Horror Fiction.

GPS by Rick Hautala 
DUST DEVIL by Gary Brandner
THE GIRL WHO DROWNED by Tracy L. Carbone
LOOK BEHIND YOU by Eric Shapiro
LONE WOLF by Gregory L. Norris
WIDDERSHINS by Hollie Snider
And the novelette THE END OF AUTUMN by Aric Sundquist.

This is a great collection of stories by some fantastic writers and I’m honored to be a part of it.

-Tracy L. Carbone

To learn more about Tracy L. Carbone, please visit her website or Amazon Author Page.