Oils by Tracy

It’s been a long time since my days of trying to find and agent or publisher, when I’d spend a fortune going from one writers’ conference to another, flying or driving around the country hoping readers would buy my existing books, or a publisher or agent would take me and my idea on board. It was hard, demoralizing at times. Ultimately, I chose Shadowridge Press as my publisher because they do beautiful work and spend a lot of time on design. I was mostly responsible for my own marketing and since I hate that sort of thing, I have a lot of books in boxes at home, and a lot of stuff on Amazon that doesn’t move. It’s my own fault for not making an effort but in my defense, I spent YEARS trying to sell, and schmoozing, and spending money on marketing. In the words of Bartleby, “I would prefer not to” continue to do that.

But painting is something else entirely. I don’t feel a need to sell, sell, sell. I’m not looking for my big break, one painting that’ll set me for life and pay off my house. I paint because I like it, because when I do a pet portrait, I smile when I’m painting, and the people I paint for smile when they see the final product.

Recently my future son-in-law started making beautiful, high-end cutting boards. Instagram @travwoodworks

He discovered a Makers’ Market in town and signed up for a table. I did as well, figuring since I’ve got a couple of dozen paintings, and am creating more all the time, I ought to try to sell some. I have my originals, prints, and have a shingle out to take commissions for pet portraits. The vibe when I’m doing this for pleasure instead of to support myself is very different. Yes, I want to get paid for work I do, but I also like the events and talking to people, getting to know others, and hearing from passersby that my pups and the paintings are cute.

All the pictures I’ve posted in the past were photos of paintings. To give a better idea of the quality, here are some high-resolution scans.

I’ll be working on the new kids’ book and will hopefully have it for sale at the Maker’s Market in the next couple of months. Keep an eye out for new paintings and shows.

As always, thanks for reading.

Stay creative!

Tracy

Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book II

The book is just about done, Meaning the rough draft at least. All painting are complete, except one. Once I finish that one I’ll do one more run through for final brush strokes. The narrative parts of the story are also nearly done. I decided to tell the story in poem form since it’s for kids. Here’s a picture of most of the paintings in various stages, plus the “Very formal” outline of the book with notes.

In the next part of the book, where I left off in the last post, Anna tells Granola that it’s time for her to go, for good. She says Granola is ready. Granola is saddened by this so runs away from home, has a good cry on a rainy day, and is finally brought home by her parents. She gets a warm bath and lots of hugs.

Later, Mom sits Granola and Scruffy down and tells them some big news.

In the end, time passes. Granola turns two! She doesn’t see Anna anymore but says she knows Anna still watches over them all. Except she says this in kid-friendly terms, in rhyme.

I’m still working on the cover but here it is, still in progress.

My next post about this book will be when it’s done and ready to read. Until then I’ll be focusing on some of the other paintings and my new foray into Makers’ Markets and selling my work.

Happy Creativity! Thanks for reading.

Tracy

Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Book

Though I’ve sworn off writing fiction and instead have thrown myself into oil painting, I’ve realized recently that maybe there’s a way to do both.

The day after Christmas, my old Schnauzer Anna passed away from complications of dementia and heart disease. My dog Granola was very close to her old doggy sister, though she also adores her middle- aged buddy Scruffy. One day I noticed Granola looking in a mirror, so I photographed her as I often do. I decided instantly to paint it but then got the idea to add Anna in, but only on one side.

From there I became completely pulled into the idea of writing a book about loss for children. I planned out the book on index cards, just like old times. Though this time there weren’t as many cards as an 80,000 word novel needs a bit more planning.

I decided to start the story when Granola was little. These paintings still need a little touching up but they’re a good sneak preview.

Over time, Anna’s age started to get the best of her. One day she got sick and Granola and Scruffy waited and waited. But she didn’t come home… Note my masterful sketches I use as a guide.

After that day, the pups were very sad…

Soon after, in the book, Granola sees Ghost Anna in the mirror, where it all started. She is very excited until she jumps right through her. She runs and hides but eventually comes out again, tentatively. Again, not to worry, these paintings are drafts. I’d never post drafts of writing online but with paintings I think it’s fun to see the process. I’m grateful my dogs are so good about picture time.

After that, when Granola saw Anna’s ghost wasn’t going to hurt her, it made her happy. Anna stuck around for a while. They hung out and played games together, though Scruffy couldn’t see her and thought it was her imagination. Why I got the idea of puzzles I’ll never know but I thought it would be fun to paint.

That’s plenty of teaser for now. I’ve got a lot more paintings done and only ONE PICTURE left to paint. Then I have to work out the narrative part. I know what I want to say but any good writer will tell you, it’s how you say it. And that, I don’t have figured out yet.

I’ll share more soon but didn’t want you all to think I was being lazy or binge watching TV with my “free” time. Okay, I am also binge watching TV, from behind my easel. I highly recommend Offspring and Wilfred. I’ve recently started watching LOST which I haven’t seen since it aired. And of course the perfect shows whose seasons end all too quickly, This Is Us and Call the Midwife.

Until next time, happy painting!

Tracy

Oil Paintings- A Continuing Journey

Since my last post, I’ve had twinges of longing to write again. I’ve sat down at my laptop and “scribbled” down some badly written starts. In the past I’d persevere until the bad scribbles turned into something good. But with my long hiatus from writing, it’s still difficult to bring myself to write much more than blogs. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring my newfound love of painting.

When I was very young I loved to draw. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up but wasn’t good at it. This was back in the 70s and we didn’t have much money so art lessons in person weren’t even thought of. When we were kids, we played outside a lot and followed our creative pursuits and let our schools lead the way. There was no Internet or YouTube, no online lessons. Maybe there were art books in the library but writing stories came a lot more naturally to me. So that’s what I did. In sixth grade, I still really liked drawing and art class but because of budget cuts (Prop 2 I think it was called) only the tops kids got to pursue art in seventh and eighth grade in a class they called Super Art. I wasn’t chosen, not by a long shot, so that was that with art except for occasional cartoons I’d draw for myself or others.

When I took an oil painting class months ago it was a random happenstance, and I didn’t expect much. I couldn’t draw so I wouldn’t be able to paint. I’ve learned in the last several months that they don’t have to be interrelated. When I paint now, I’ve got the same excitement and enthusiasm I had when I was a child.

Since the last post here are the paintings I’ve finished. I’m throwing fewer in the trash and more are being hung on my wall or sent to people who want them hanging in their homes. This is a wonderful feeling, seeing my work on someone else’s wall. Each day something I created brings them joy. There’s nothing better than that.

Without further ado, here’s my newest stuff.

We’ll see what 2022 brings but for now as long as I’m doing something creative, I think I’ll be just fine.

Here’s to a creative and happy 2022.

-Tracy

Oil Painting- Dog Portraits

I’ve been painting like a madwoman because whenever I start a new hobby I go full force. I started painting dogs for practice and feel like I’m getting pretty good at it, enough to start selling them one of these days. Maybe it wouldn’t be as much fun if I had to do it but I may explore this and put any money earned toward my credit card debt. And if I don’t go that route, I’ll paint a bunch more and hang them to add fun and whimsy to my living room wall.

Here are the ones I’ve completed to date. The black and white ones are all of my Granola. The Australian Shepherd is my friend’s dog, Jasper. The terrier-type dog is my stepfather’s buddy Scooter.

This weekend I did the two below. The little brown dog, Maysie, belongs to my husband’s coworker. The poodle is my father-in-law’s dog, Bridget.

I’ve got two more to paint that someone requested and then I’m seriously going to consider opening an Etsy shop or at least advertising locally. I’m a little intimidated with trying to paint humans but I should give that a shot too.

Painting is so relaxing. The materials are a bit expensive but once I have the paints they last a while, except for black and white which I use up pretty quickly. I use Winsor and Newton Paints, Artist’s line, linseed oil and Dammar Varnish. I’ve been using the Winsor Winton Titanium White from Amazon because I use so much. It’s a little thicker but the oil thins is nicely.

I’ve got shelves full of tile and need to get back to mosaics one of these days. The only reason I’ve slowed down, okay two reasons, are the mosquitos that are STILL HERE even though it’s October 31st. Happy Halloween by the way. And second, I used up all the wall I can easily get to that’s not obstructed by plants. Any new work I do will need to be on the hill and it’s a lot harder to tile, lugging up heavy tile, water, and grout.

I hope you enjoy the paintings and feel a bit inspired.

-Tracy

Where has the Time Gone?

thZSAGOAMLThe thing about being a writer who also has a full-time job, is that there’s not much time left for blog posts. Sadly there’s also little time for marketing or advertising or schmoozing.

I’ve lived in CA for almost two and half years. Since then my day job workload has really picked up, and we bought the house we were renting. Buying a house isn’t an excuse for not writing but renovating it is. And we’ve done a lot of renovating. But even with that, I have been writing fiction. Just not blog posts.

thCA4H4Y303I finished The Rainbox, a novel, February of 2016. I sent it to several agents. Some I got rejections from, and on some their sites explained that they’re too busy to reply unless they want to see more. I  understand this attitude but they should also understand that writers are ultrasensitive people who read into everything. I had one hold out agent who said they DO reply so when she didn’t after four months I dropped her a line. She apologized and said at that particular time she had a problem with the submissions page and could I resend the first 50 pages? I was miffed but resent. Three months later I got a form rejection. I think it’s fair to say I’m burnt out on the big agents and big publishers.

Most, if not all, of my contacts are in the horror genre. The new book, and most of what I write these days isn’t horror, so I’m relegated to cold calling agencies I find online. I haven’t been doing that  because back to my old point, I have limited time and can’t spend it writing dozens of queries and then waiting upwards of nine months before I try someone else.

I have decided it’s time to proposition Shadowridge Press, my favorite small press who is growing by leaps and bounds and adding many authors I greatly admire. More on that in another post.14517610_1199533770103643_5076798070215318949_n

In July, Cemetery Riots came out. This is an anthology I edited with T.C. Bennett. This is a fantastic collection of stories by talented authors. It features my story, “Lunch at Mom’s” which was accepted before I came on board.

Last month I finished a new screenplay called Pretty When She Cries which to me is a cross of Precious, Babel, and Requiem for a Dream. A dark story about people with darkness, and how their actions spiral out of control.

I’ve written several new short stories this year. One was bought by a pro market, only to have the market suddenly fold right before it was to be published. Another was sent many, many months ago to what seems to be a great market. But it’s all still in limbo and the editor isn’t giving updates. I have included both of those stories in my new collection, Just Stories. This will be out by the Vintage Paperback show in March 2017 in Glendale and features many new stories.

Big markets and big agents and big publishers have worn me out. If you can land them, great! But for the rest of us the important thing is to keep writing and not let anyone tell you that if you haven’t published with X you’re not a writer. Someone told me a few months ago that if you don’t write every day you’re not a writer. I argued that sometimes real life prevents that and being a writer-to me at least-is an inborn gift, or curse. And I certainly make up for my output when I do write. He smugly stuck to his point. I agree to disagree.

I am still writing fiction all time even if I don’t post about it.  And even if I don’t write every day. I’m still a writer.

Go Patriots!

 

CEMETERY RIOTS: Mission Complete

cr promo poster25After months of working with authors to select and edit stories, and tweak contracts, and get the book and cover laid out, and publishing it, we’re done!

Here is the link for Amazon for the print and Kindle versions.

Co-editing was a fun experience at times, grueling and frustrating at others. In the end though, we put out an impressive collection of dark cautionary tales.

If you want a pdf or mobi version to review on Amazon, Goodreads or anywhere else you can think of, please send me a message and I’ll get one to you.

From Amazon:

Imagine yourself in a cemetery. Void of all light at the base of a tree. But it’s no ordinary tree. This tree abounds with the dead. Now envision that each tree limb is a short story with its own vision, its own length of words, and its own insanity.With that said, beware of the widow makers and the strange foreboding dwelling beneath. Remember, nothing’s heavenly in Cemetery Riots. Cemetery Riots is a new collection of dark cautionary tales edited by T. C. Bennett and Tracy L. Carbone. With great pride we introduce you to our stories and their authors… THE WAITING DEAD by Ray Garton, ABUSED by Richard Christian Matheson, CHILDREN’S HOUR by Hal Bodner, CARMICHAEL MOTEL by Kathryn E. McGee, THAT STILL, BLEEDING OBJECT OF DESIRE by Chet Williamson, LUNCH AT MOM’S by Tracy L. Carbone, FATHER AND SON by Jack Ketchum, THE DEMON OF SPITALFIELDS by Karen and Roxanne E. Dent, ERASURE by Lisa Morton, THE WINDOWS by T. C. Bennett, CERTAIN SIGHTS OF AN AFFLICATED WOMAN by Eric J. Guignard, THE MAN WHO KNEW WHAT TIME IT WAS by Dennis Etchison, THE RE-POSSESSED by James Dorr, CLOWN ON BLACK VELVET by Michael Sebastian, THE CELLAR by Kelly Kurtzhals, ETERNAL VALLEY by John Palisano, BLOOD by Taylor Grant, AMONG THE TIGERS by William F. Nolan, ALL OUR HEARTS ARE GHOSTS by Peter Atkins, THE ITCH by Michael D. Nye, and DRIVING HER HOME by John Everson.

Our first signing is set up for September 18th at 2pm at Dark Delicacies in Burbank. Link to their place HERE. Many of the authors will be present to sign and chat about their writing so we hope to see you there.

-Tracy

 

 

 

Cemetery Riots-The Final Contributor List

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

 

The Half a Cow Rule

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.

cow-clipart-3.png

 

Warning to New Writers: Critiquers Gone Awry

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.