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

 

 

Up until last week, I’d never made biscotti. I’d eaten it from restaurants, and from store bought packages. I was limited to one or two flavors. Though I like to bake, I was intimidated by biscotti, much as I am by pies. I have tried throughout my life to make pies, and except for cream pies in premade crusts, I’ve been wholly unsuccessful.

Though I knew nothing about the process of making biscotti, I was afraid of it. Until now. I stumbled across a handful of recipes on Pinterest, tweaked and tried a couple of varieties, and I think I have mastered it. This isn’t hard to do because it’s only a handful of ingredients.

The key to biscotti I realized lies only in the baking method.

Here is my recipe for Spice Cake Biscotti, but you can use any cake mix. I also made it with a Lemon Cake Mix last weekend and it was delicious too.

IMG_1874

Ingredients are pictured here but for ease:

  1. 1 standard Spice Cake mix
  2. 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  3. 1 stick of butter (softened)
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1//4 cup walnuts (optional)
  6. 1/2 cup butterscotch chip (optional but so good)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix first four ingredients with a hand mixer. Dough will become think like sugar cookie dough. You can do this with a wooden spoon but it will take a long time and hurt your hand. IMG_1875

Add in the nuts, chips  or whatever else you want. I think raisins would be delicious but my boyfriend hates them so I left them out. In the picture I put them in the bowl together but I think adding the chips and nuts after would work better.

Shape it onto a greased cookie sheet.  It should be 1/2 inch high and however wide you need it to be for that depth. Ignore those silicon puppy molds. That’s another recipe for another day.IMG_1876

Now here it what sets this aside from a regular cookie recipe.

Bake for 30 minutes until a knife in the center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and wait 10 minutes. Set a timer.

After 10 minutes, cut the pieces into biscotti sliced wedges, then put them back in the oven (still at 350 degrees) for exactly 10 minutes. Again, set a timer. This step is important.

Finally, shut the oven off and leave the biscotti in there to cool and harden for 30 minutes. I set a timer for this too but realistically the oven would be cold by then probably so maybe it doesn’t matter. I took them out at 3o minutes and they were perfect!

I added a glaze of 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons milk to drizzle.

IMG_1877

That’s all there is to it.

If you make this let me know how it turns out.

Happy cooking!

-Tracy

For more of Tracy’s recipes of her first love, writing books and stories, please visit her here.

 

 

 

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.

t chess 4.jpg

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.

chess5

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

 

Deathlehem Revisited

Posted: December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

71vyERTv33LAs 2015 nears to a close, I’m happy to post about my newest sale. My story “The Other Side of the Wall,” appears in Deathlehem Revisited: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity.

We have a nice  but small back yard and are constantly annoyed and curious about the incidents on the other side of the tall cinderblock wall. The neighbors make a lot of noise, and one of their three dogs occasionally hops over the fence. Sometimes we stand on tippy toes so we can try to see what the heck is going on over there. I’m not quite tall enough and I am always speculating.

Hence I wrote this story about a man whose curiosity gets the best of him, and his imagination and nosiness gets him more than he bargains for in this holiday cautionary tale.

I just bought a copy today and am eager to read the other stories in the collection.  Edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves, this should prove to be a creepy fun read. All proceeds go to charity.