Archive for the ‘Writing and Life’ Category

thZSAGOAMLI’ve been writing since I was little. It’s the only thing I ever found that I could do all day everyday and still think it was fun. Or at least rewarding.

For years, I’ve been writing like crazy. To date I have five published novels, a collection of short stories, a second collection probably coming out in the fall. I’ve sold lots of standalone stories too.

For my recent  novel-it’s been sometime since I’ve looked for an agent-I’m a little overwhelmed. Back in the day, a person could write a book and sell it. The publisher and /or you would spread the word through friends, or press releases (does anyone even use those anymore)? And then go work on the next book. Sure there were book signings to attend and conferences but that wasn’t the requirement. If you wrote a good enough book and it got into the right hands, and you kept writing good books, that was enough. You may not be rich or number one on the sales charts but it wasn’t about that. It was about the writing, the craft of it. The tap tap tap of the keys and the euphoria and sadness you felt at typing, THE END.th0DTLRKC1

It’s a different world now though. Now it’s about Amazon rankings which can be skewed in several ways to your favor so you can say, “Look I’m number ONE !” even if just for a few hours, and in some remote category (Amish Cookbooks that Feature Deviled Eggs). I’ve been guilty of this myself so I’m not judging. But when did it become about ranking and popularity and how much can you earn in a month if you run a contest or a giveaway?

thSVC34CLQI saw the website for a big NYC literary agency today that stated when I submit my query I also had to provide links to all my social media, talk about how many followers I had and my web traffic. How many copies of books have I sold?

What happened to sending in your book and being judged on the merit of the writing and the concept? The dream of pulling a J.K. Rowling and having your book fall into the right hands and suddenly have everyone talk about what a good storyteller you are? Is that so far down the list of priorities now to publish? I think so, yes.

thUJ37D5A7.jpgNow the writing doesn’t matter nearly as much as Facebook algorithms and Twitter followers and Tweets and Retweets, and podcasts and blog posts. It’s a business. Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. It’s a start. There’s Goodreads and a whole bunch of others that I don’t know about because I JUST WANT TO WRITE.

When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to grow up to  be a writer. I didn’t want to grow up and do marketing for a living. I work all day at bank job and when I get home, I want to immerse myself in fiction. Not more accounting stuff and schmoozing and looking at spreadsheets and learning the best methods to sell more Kindle books than last month by doing a Countdown or paying Bookbub to let me give away more free copies because eventually it will pan out…

thZVQUA00LBut it seems without doing all these other things, you are destined to fall into obscurity. I truly respect the people who do write well and also market like crazy and make a lot of money. I just wish that we could go back to just writing what we love, and being good at it, and letting good prose do the work.

On that note, I will go write because that is my favorite part. If I am never number one, or a household name I want to believe it’s because I didn’t write the Great American Novel, not because I didn’t Tweet enough. I hold out hope that someday we will go back to writers  writing, just for the sake of writing because that’s what we were born to do.

-Tracy

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TCBennett_CemeteryRiots_TitleOnlyI’ve been working hard with T.C. Bennett and we finally have all our stories collected, chosen, and edited. They’ve been sent off to our Layout person and we are eagerly awaiting the pdf of the finished work so we can review it yet again and send it to our authors before it goes to print. We’re on track for our June deadline. Note, the names below do not represent the story order. We read and reread them all to order them to give the collection the best possible flow. Congratulations to all the contributors. It’s going to be a wonderful collection of dark cautionary tales.

  • James S. Dorr-The Repossessed
  • William F. Nolan-Among the Tigers
  • Kelly Kurtzhals-The Cellar
  • Tracy L. Carbone-Lunch at Mom’s
  • John Palisano-Eternal Valley
  • Hal Bodner-Children’s Hour
  • Eric J. Guignard-Certain Sights of an Afflicted Woman
  • Ray Garton-The Waiting Dead
  • Chet Williamson-That Still, Bleeding Object of Desire
  • Michael Sebastian-Clown on Black Velvet
  • Michael D. Nye-The Itch
  • Taylor Grant-Blood
  • Kathryn McGee-Carmichael Motel
  • R.C. Matheson-Abused
  • Jack Ketchum-Father and Son
  • Lisa Morton-Erasure
  • Karen Dent-The Demon of Spitalfields
  • Roxanne Dent-The Demon of Spitalfields
  • T.C. Bennett-The Windows
  • Dennis Etchison-Title TBD
  • John Everson-Driving Her Home
  • Peter Atkins

 

Half%20CowAt the Burbank Writers Coffeehouse this afternoon, Peter Clines was discussing the differences between suspense, mystery, and a twist ending.

I’ll touch on those in another blog someday, but wanted to relay a story to illustrate the importance of a payoff after pages and pages of mystery or suspense. Sometimes novels can be 120,000 words long. Carefully crafted words of character development and clues and red herrings, and more clues and a story arch, and finally the big reveal. THE PAYOFF. If you put your readers through that much reading, you’d better have a worthwhile payoff.

Many years ago, my ex and I traveled with our respective children from the northeastern corner of Massachusetts to Poughkeepsie, NY, on Thanksgiving Wednesday, in the snow. It was destined to be a long ride as it was, and we were prepared in the way readers are when they heave a giant mystery novel onto their lap and settle in for the night.

The ride though ended up being very long. Somewhere into it, not sure how far along, the traffic stopped. Utterly stopped. Had this been summer, or Los Angeles, we could have gotten out of the car and played Frisbee or at least rolled our windows down and relaxed. But it was cold, we were all tired, and after too long of sitting we got restless. Helicopters roared above, and ambulances and police cars whizzed past, but they were so far ahead we couldn’t see a thing. We passed the time as best we could, playing words games or singing. Finally, two hours later, the traffic moved.

Idiom-Edgeofseat-Movie.jpgWhat was it the holdup? The first thing I saw, an image I will never forget, was a half a cow. Split right down the middle,  lying on its side, dead of course. I never saw the other half. The 18 Wheeler was turned around the wrong way and twisted like a broken elbow. “Wow, a half a cow! That was worth the wait!” I said, or words to that effect. We all agreed heartily. Because, who ever gets to see THAT?

How does this rule apply to writing mysteries or thrillers or any genre that contains a big reveal?

If you’re going to write a book, and tease your readers, and drag out the big reveal, and keep them on edge with so much intensity they give up television or dinner to get to the end, you DAMN WELL BETTER HAVE A HALF A COW, to show them. Or something equally as worthy to trade for their money and time invested in your story, and in you.

An example of a bad reveal: two hours of traffic in the car and you see a guy with a flat tire. Or in a book–well you’re writers, you can make the connection.

That’s all I’ve got for now but it deemed worth sharing. Blake Snyder has Save the Cat. I’ve got Half a Cow.

Don’t cheat your readers. Give them something BIG.

-Tracy L. Carbone

For more of Tracy’s insights on writing visit  HERE, or check out and follow her on  her Amazon page.

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imagesI will immediately explain the title because not all people who critique your work are bad and not all paid editors are bad. Some can help tremendously.

I’ve been writing for a long time. My first two books were TERRIBLE and thank God no one bought them. My third, my first NANOWRIMO book, was even worse.

After that though I started to write better as I learned from my mistakes. Often as new writers we copy styles from writers we want to emulate. That’s fine, so long as when you advance in your career you develop your own voice and style. We all have voices of writers who came before us peppering our prose.

I wrote a book in 2007 shortly after being mentored by and co-writing a book with a major author. On the heels of my excitement of learning so much so quickly I penned this other thriller. Knowing then that I wasn’t a perfect writer, because no one is and I still had much to learn, I paid someone to edit it for me.

Keep in mind, I was not looking for copy editing only. I think hiring a copy editor is a good idea especially if you are going to self publish. I sought out an experienced writer to help me with the book, make sure it was marketable, make sure it wasn’t all wrong and if it was, to help me. The man I hired had written lots of books in my genre and is a good and successful writer. I have no complaints. This is not always the case, so watch out for Editors who do not have a solid track record in writing or publishing.

BUT, now it’s 2016 and I never did sell that book to big publishers and so in 2013 I self published it after bad experiences with two small presses. I wanted it up on Amazon quickly so I rushed and used a cover I didn’t like; and because of other life and writing situations never spent any time marketing it. Recently I decided to go back and read and edit it again since I am going to get a better cover and also release it as the first in a series instead of a standalone.

My point? There were a lot of phrases in there that I know were not mine. They were fine but not my words. I paid for someone to basically fix my book so it’s on me. But there are occasional words or phrases I would not have used. As a newer writer back then I didn’t care, but now that I’ve grown, I want my book to be my book. I took out all the noticeable non-Tracy things. It was nothing major mind you but it wasn’t mine. I’m sure there were structural suggestions or plot points that were recommended. I’ll keep those as whatever they were blended with what I wanted anyway.

I heard an editor recently tell someone (who is a better writer than the editor) “I’ll edit your book for you and check every single line and fix it.” The thing is, I doubt he needs every line fixed because he’s a seasoned writer and had sold lots of stories among other things. My fear is that because this other person is a self-proclaimed “EDITOR” that this person’s words and style will take over the content of the author’s book, which may be fine as is, or maybe just needs a little tweaking.

There is an art to being a good editor (meaning one who critiques, not as a profession, though that rule applies here as well). It’s about taking someone’s work and guiding the author in the direction they need to go in without losing the author’s voice, or story. If the story is irredeemably bad, the editor should say so, not string them along for money or ego. If it’s already really good and just needs some typos fixed, or to tighten up continuity issues, say that. It seems to me that (some) people who critique feel the need to find something, to find a lot, wrong with the books they take on to prove their necessity and worth. And to make those stories copy their own style without meaning to.

When I’m editing stories for anthologies I don’t go line by line and “fix” until all the stories read as if I wrote them. I am very careful not to bury the author’s voice under my own. I may suggest things that would work better but I don’t insist and I don’t make the author feel lesser.

Style is something a writer grows into. It’s there when you begin writing, it’s part of who you are. But you learn to develop it over time, to refine it. A good editor or members of a critique group will help you to refine your style, to hold your hand and guide you on the path you started with helpful tips along the way.

New writers, do be wary of any editor or critique group who pressures you to change your work so much that you’ve lost the “you” in it. If you want to write, you will learn your way as we all did: by reading others’ works, by writing lots of crap and getting feedback. By graduating from form rejections to personalized ones. Until the one fine day, when you get your first acceptance and you are proud that you didn’t take shortcuts, that you learned by doing. That you sold your story.

Believe in yourself and believe in your voice, and through hard work the rest will come.

-Tracy

Tracy L Carbone is the author of five published novels, a sixth making rounds with agents, and  three embarrassing unpublished ones hiding in a trunk. She has edited a Bram Stoker nominated anthology and is currently co-editing a new one. Dozens of her stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines in the U.S. and Canada and in her short story collection aptly named, The Collection. Her second collection will be released late 2016. Her screenplay Restitution was a finalist in the WeScreenplay Contest for 2015.

 

TCBennett_CemeteryRiots_TitleOnlyI’ve been updating the original post from four months ago every time we add a new author to the line up, but the post is buried underneath all the new ones. I wanted to update it here with a brand-new post about the book.

This stellar anthology is coming out in June of 2016 by Awol from Elysium Press aka T.C. Bennett. I’ve been excited to edit this with him as I’m seeing some fantastic talent come across our virtual desks.

The stories are strong, character driven, good old fashioned horror. Cautionary tales that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

We’ve got some great stories from seasoned bestsellers and brand-new fiction writers. The deadline is closed and we will have the final TOC by the end of April.

So far we’ve got new stories from:

  • James S. Dorr
  • William F. Nolan
  • Kelly Kurtzhals
  • Tracy L. Carbone
  • John Palisano
  • Hal Bodner
  • Eric J. Guignard
  • Ray Garton
  • Chet Williamson
  • Michael Sebastian
  • Michael D. Nye
  • Taylor Grant
  • Kathryn McGee
  • R.C. Matheson
  • Jack Ketchum
  • Lisa Morton

and  works in progress from several others that we will be added here very soon.

glassesI recently finished writing a new novel. I wrote the whole thing, all nine drafts, since May of 2015, the same time it takes to make a child. It was a relief to complete the book and I planned to take at least a few weeks off to rest, to recover from my late nights and sleepless days. Someone said recently that writing a book is like running a marathon. It’s nonstop adrenaline until you’re done. And when you are done, you’re left still energized, still revved up. Crossing the finish line does not convince your body to instantly change gears. It takes a little time to slow yourself down, get your heartbeat back to normal. Get used to walking again, or in my case, get used to living a regular day where characters are not running lines in my head 24/7.

So I looked forward to a month or so of peace. And even then I’d planned to compile a short story collection, not a novel. Maybe I’d wait six months to start a novel because I need downtime in between them.

Image015Last week though I took a trip to Fillmore, California. It’s a small (14,000 residents) town, with an old downtown area, a one screen movie theater, and an adorable train station. The whole town is only a few miles across. The houses are mostly old, mostly worn. It’s there that I had my first case of homesickness for New England. To me, it was any old town in Massachusetts, being Taunton where I grew up, or Easton where I spent several years, Middleboro, where I bought my quaint brick home, or Bradford, where I ended up before relocating to sunny Southern California. Here everything is bright and shiny and clean. Often I feel like I’m in Disneyland.

Abby_1_fnlIt’s an understatement to say I overreacted emotionally to Fillmore. I literally cried on the way home, something I rarely if ever do. I HAD to live there. We HAD to buy a house there. I didn’t care about my boyfriend’s long commute or the low property values, or the fact is was wicked far from Burbank and Glendale and the places I visit all the time, or Santa Monica where I work when I’m in the office. I HAD to live there. I threw quite a little tantrum.

In a day or two I calmed down but not before writing an extensive brainstorming sheet and outline about a new novel called Homesick that I would set in Fillmore, or a fictional version of it. No sooner did I write the outline, and start envisioning characters and events that were filling my brain faster than I could write them down, that I started feeling panic, exhaustion. It’s too soon! I thought. I can’t already be writing another book. I’m not ready. I need to sleep. I need to spend some time as Tracy, not immersed in all these people that will invade my house and thoughts and life for the next nine months like unwelcome bossy relatives.

imaginationNow that I’ve had a few days to absorb it though, I’m okay. Writers do not always choose their next book or topic. Sometimes it is chosen for them, by the characters, by the emotions they feel, by events that are surely laid out before them by a God who wants them to tell a story. I took out six research books from the library last week and tomorrow I will spend the day in Fillmore, walking down the streets, visiting the Town Hall, eating lunch in one of the little restaurants. I’ll take pictures for my book file and imagine my characters in this location or that. I’ll overhear their conversations and watch them as they live the lives I’m destined to record.

Welcome to the next book, I say as I prepare to give over my life to the new characters.

Happy writing!

-Tracy

 

 

chess6Okay, I can’t say for sure that my chess set is haunted. There have been no mysterious happenings in the house, no rattling of doorknobs, no moans in the night, no unexplained crashes. But just looking at it fills me with writing prompts that I cannot wait to fit into stories or a novel at some point.

I saw this chess set on eBay and bought it for my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, though if I’m honest it was for me as well. Not because I wanted it, but because the pieces were handmade and intricate and old and creepy and I couldn’t imagine letting the opportunity to have it pass me by. board

The ad said, Vintage primitive stone resin and wood Aztec Mayan Indian chess set. The seller doesn’t know the age or materials only that it’s from Guam. If it really is from Guam. Each square is an individual tile, carved with frightening symbols. The pieces are worn, some a little broken. Some of their faces are worn away entirely.Their golden ropes and hats chipped and faded.chess4

I have not played chess in years, though we played the night I gave it to him. The pieces are heavy and cold. But my imagination has them feeling warm, with pulses and secret thoughts.

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I suppose this is all I have to say for now about this set. But don’t be surprised if at some point in the future you hear more about this wonderful find and the mysteries it surely must hold.

Good night, from the King and Queen.

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For stories and novels by Tracy L. Carbone, please visit her site HERE.

 

 

 

 

thWell my newest novel is complete. I edited it top to bottom, each time catching errors and improving the story. Then I sent it to my beta readers, who read it very quickly. My “final” draft is called Rainbox 9 because that’s how many times I went through beginning to end to change things.

I had some writer friends read the first few chapters last summer, and that was immensely helpful. But what I’ve found is that other writers sometimes try to steer a book to be the way they would write it. They pick up on pivotal things, and details that matter, plot and dailogue, and provide great input along the way.

readerEveryone has a different writing style though and if we listen to all our writing peers, we would rewrite work endlessly. That’s why beta readers who are only readers, not writers, are important.

At the end of the day, we are selling to readers, and we have to trust our ability as story tellers. I did three major rewrites and drafts of my “final” draft, then another pass through after my readers gave comments. Thankfully they were easy to fix.

I sent the first ten pages to an agent and my fingers are crossed. If he takes it, there will be more edits I’m sure. If he sells it to publisher, there will be more edits based on someone’s best guess on what a reader would want to see.

glasses.jpgAll along the way there are readers, and without them our works would fall into a vacuum. We’d still write, as most of us write out of compulsion and passion not praise and acclaim, but it is nice when someone reads our books.

For all the readers out there, and especially to my first readers, THANK YOU!

-Tracy

 

Winter Horror Days front CoverWhen I moved from Massachusetts to California a year ago, I was happy to find the friendly and active Los Angeles chapter of the Horror Writers Association aka HWA LA.

A couple of months ago they put out a call for holiday stories for their charity anthology. The only requirement was that the story have something to do with a Winter Holiday. The collection is titled Winter Horror Days.

I brainstormed for a while and finally came up with the tale called, “The Quiet Christmas Tree.” This humorous cautionary tale involves a man, and a Christmas tree haunted by his emotionally abusive late wife. It also involves the bumbling impoverish burglar who steals the tree for his family. As with all good tales, it has a “happy” ending and the right people learn their lessons.

My story was accepted and I’m excited to be in great company with many other HWA LA authors. The book is up for preorder now HERE in paperback and also available in all e-formats.

Winter Horror Days back Cover

 

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I have been lax in posting but have nonetheless been quite busy writing short stories, a new novel, and most recently teaming up to co-edit a fantastic anthology!

Coming in June, T.C. Bennett and I will be releasing Cemetery Riots.

To date, we have bought six stories listed in order of acceptance.

James S. Dorr with The Re-possessed put a new spin on a period piece about graverobbers and true zombies.

William F. Nolan with a wonderful ghostly war story called Among the Tigers.

Kelly Kurtzhals, a new writer, who crafted an eerie tale titled The Cellar about an apartment’s basement which keeps changing in size.

Tracy L. Carbone with Lunch at Mom’s.  I sent in a story to Mr. Bennett because I was excited about the list of contributors and hoped to be a part of it. He accepted my story, said he loved it. Yay! And then I asked if I could co-edit because this is going to be GREAT collection and I want to work with all the talented authors he’d invited. Normally I would not include one of my stories in a book I’m editing but since he took it before I joined came on board I can break my rule.

John Palisano sent us Eternal Valley, a period piece about a man who moves his family to the country to heal his son. But the boy’s good health is short lived when a water monster possesses him, and a mysterious woman is the only one who can save his soul. It’s a moving story about a father who will do anything for his child.

Hal Bodner wrote a beautiful tale entitled Children’s Hour. A man who lost his son in a tragedy spends most of his adult life tending to the children’s section of the a large cemetery. As the years pass, his belief that death is final comes into question as the restless spirits of rambunctious children teach him a lesson that will alter him forever.

Eric J. Guignard penned a lovely, literary story called Certain Sights of an Afflicted Woman. It’s a period piece about a woman afflicted with a disease that saves her life, but sadly not those around her. It’s about family and survival and accepting fate. It’s flawless and beautiful, as is most of his work, and the kind of story that makes me proud to be an editor.

Ray Garton just sent over The Waiting Dead. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful, and the kind of story we are so excited to have in our collection. A hopelessly discouraged overweight girl on the verge of suicide visits a relative’s grave, only to be befriended by a dead young man who wanders the graveyard. LOVE this story and I’m sure you will too.

Chet Williamson, sent  a story called That Still, Bleeding Object of Desire. He warned us, before having us read it, that it might be too weird. Hah! We didn’t think it was weird at all, only disturbing, dark, and well written, which are our favorite criteria. I can’t say much about the story without giving it away. Briefly though, a seemingly horrible man does reprehensible things and it seems we are entering a murder mystery, and a gripping one at that. And I suppose in the end, that’s exactly what it was, but Chet provided some brilliant twists that kept us reading, and surprised us in the end, leaving us gratified, and excited to publish it.

Michael Sebastian’s HWA mentor Eric J. Guignard asked if Michael could send a story even though we had all our slots spoken for. We said yes because we’re nice and Eric wouldn’t steer us wrong. The story, Clown on Black Velvet, ended up being a well written story about a young comedian who dreams of fame, and then gets it in spite of himself.

Michael D. Nye, a full time actor with an impressive background in writing as well,  met me at the Writer’s Coffeehouse in Burbank. After the meeting he asked if I’d be willing to give him feedback  on a story he’d written. I LOVED to story as did my co-editor T. C. Though Michael didn’t know about our anthology I asked if he would PLEASE sell it to us. Thankfully he said yes. The Itch is about an unsuspecting man who, through mysterious and unwanted circumstances, gradually develops a compulsion to kill, and kill, and kill.

Updated: Not all the authors are listed here. Please see the more recent posts about the book. We’re still in track to publish this in late June 2016.

Congratulations to all the authors so far!