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!


Beta Readers

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!



Back from the Abyss

FullSizeRenderIt’s been too long since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I blame my cross country move to California, and adjusting to my new life here. In a nutshell, it’s sunny and pretty almost all of the time. And when it’s not, it’s rainy and pretty. I love the vastness of the mountains, and the sounds of water birds and crickets and frogs at night. I live in a suburb about a half hour from Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Since I moved, I have been lucky enough to fall in with a terrific group of creative people. I am a long standing member of the International Horror Writers Association. Because of that, and the conferences I frequented for years, I was able to slide into the Los Angles chapter of the HWA without feeling out of my element, or like a stranger. I knew many of the folks from conferences, or Facebook, or Shocklines.

Though I’ve written only two stories since I got here, which is pitifully low output, I have joined the ranks of thousands and am currently cutting my teeth on a screenplay adapted from my novel, Restitution.IMG_1462

Thanks to the HWA and their enthusiastic organizers, I’ve had several book signings.

If you’re in the area, please stop by my Shades and Shadows reading on March 21st. Also, the L.A. Vintage Paperback Expo on March 22nd in Glendale is going to be phenomenal. The HWA has a booth there. Please come visit. March 2015

I promise to write more frequent posts, and update people on my writing, my new recipes and various upcoming signings and appearances.

Till then, have a fantastic day!


Dusting off the Keys

There was a time a bunch of years ago when I was writing 2-3 hours a day, after I got home from work, after Abby was in bed. I wrote a bad book then another. I needed to learn what not to do. I wrote very few short stories. Middle and high school had been the time for stories, but not adulthood. Being an adult meant the big stuff. Eighty to a hundred thousand words of brilliance.

Except, well, it wasn’t all brilliant. Maybe there were glimpses of it, portions where the reader would say “wow.” But overall, I had a lot of learning to do and wasn’t selling.  At one point someone at a conference suggested I write short stories to get my name out there. It felt like a step back. No. I was writing BOOKS.  And I was going to make a ton of money and quit my day job and sell movie rights…

But reality hit. I needed to get my name out there, like he said. So I tried to remember how to write a story, how to condense an idea  into three to five thousand words of intensity where every word mattered. It was hard, harder than a novel in some ways because there’s no time or words to waste.

In the midst of relearning that craft, I wrote a little book, merely for my daughter, to make a happy ending for a real life situation that hadn’t worked out so well for us. And wouldn’t you know that’s the book that sold. First it went to a little publisher, then a bigger little publisher. When that went horribly wrong it went to another little publisher where it resides now.  I marketed it the best I could, but the whole time was thinking, “But I want to write a big book! A grown up book!” I went through a period where I read like crazy. A book a week, plus the aforementioned 2-3 hours a night of writing. I also attended 4-5 conferences and workshops a year. I was on a networking, learning, writing roll and couldn’t be stopped.

My short story writing got better, my novel writing got better. I even dabbled in screenplays which, if nothing else, made me a better novelist as I learned that all media should be tight and without wasted words. After trying to sell my adult novels for a long time, with nibbles but no bites, I stopped trying. I completed a 50k Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) book two years ago but since then? Nothing. I’ve penned and sold a few short stories but haven’t even thought about writing a new novel. Part of me wondered if that opportunity had passed, if I’d written too many short stories to ever go back to long fiction. Maybe I didn’t have it in me. I had gotten lazy and had become overwhelmed which is a deadly combination to any writer.

I stopped reading a book a week and have been lucky to read 4-5 books a year. Where did all the time go? Life. A new boyfriend. Being a single mom. The day job. Night school. Canning Jams. More pets than I can handle. In essence, anything at all to keep me from writing. Keep me from potentially failing. Keep me from rejection letters.

In the meantime, since about 97% of my friends are writers, and since my Facebook news feeds are filled with one “I signed a contract/sold a story/will be at a signing” post after another, part of me wanted to just crawl in a hole and give up.

But then about a month ago I got an email that I’d sold the newest short story I had written. About two weeks later, my PayPal revealed I’d just received cash from my first pro writing sale for another short story I’d written years ago (in the frenzied writing time).

Last weekend I got up at 8am, got an X-Large coffee from Dunkin’ Doughnuts (with a turbo shot) and edited an old 500 page manuscript. I was at it for about 14 hours straight. It felt good. Really good. Sunday, it was a six-hour shift. But I finished. Then I read 300 pages of The Kite Runner all at once. Not with resentment because it was so damn well-written but with appreciation for the words and story, and a realization that I too know how to write. Maybe not that well, but I can write. I just have to actually do it. Not hide under the covers. Not make excuses.

Tonight I am going to edit the remaining short stories that are set for a collection I’m putting together. The rest of the week, edit a novella that has been sitting in the corner like a neglected child. There is a lot to do, a lot of lost time to make up. A lot of creativity coursing through my veins again.

Call it mania or excitement or a return after too long a hiatus, but I’m back.


Don’t forget to check out  my  AMAZON PAGE   to see all my fiction currently for sale.

Canning Pickled Beets-Refrigerated

Most of the time when I’m not working, I’m writing fiction. But once in a while I also like to make jams and bread and butter pickles. This is a relatively new skill so now and then I try something new. In The Christmas Tree Shop I picked up a package of Mrs. Wages Pickled Beets.

The recipe sounded like a much spicier version than the plain boiled beets I occasionally eat, and I hoped they’d be a bit tastier and crunchier than beets in a metal can. I’m happy to report they’re delicious. Below is a step by step guide, with photos of the process. I honestly forgot to read the ingredients on the package so don’t know what’s in that spice package but the link is here so you can buy your own. I highly recommend it.

To start, buy 4 1/2 lbs of beets. Since beets are sold with the greens attached I had a tough time weighing them. I ended up buying seven bunches which contained three beets each.

Next, cut off the greens and scrub the beets. I used a potato brush. Immerse the beets in boiling water and then simmer for 25 minutes till tender. The water will turn blood red which, as a horror writer, I thought was a nice visual perq.

Once they’re done (you can stick a fork in one to make sure) drain them.

For the next step, wear gloves unless you want your hands dyed red for days.

Peel the beats. The skin will slide off in your gloved hands once you start to remove the peel. Soon you’ll have a bowl full of bright red shiny beets. Rinse off in a colander to remove all the skins.

 Next cut the beets into 1/2 inch slices and place in a large pot.

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars and keep your lids in a bowl of boiled then simmering water.

To the sliced beets, add: package of mix, 1/2 cup horseradish, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup white vinegar. Mix together and heat to boiling. Then simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from stove. Add one sliced onion. The recipe calls for one or two but I just added one.

Ladle the mix into hot jars. Fill with liquid to leave 1/2 inch of headspace. If you don’t have enough liquid (I didn’t) then mix vinegar and water 3:1 ratio and use that to fill. Top the jars with lids and seal.

Cool to room temperature and then keep refrigerated. They are ready to eat after 24 hours.


Tracy Carbone is a fiction writer and canning hobbyist. Please visit her website for a list of blogs, recipes and all things literary and scary.

Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe

Shifting away from my usual “take on writing and life” blog I wanted to share a great recipe and step by step instructions for Bread and Butter Pickles. A couple of years ago I was at a country festival and saw a woman selling jars of homemade Bread and Butter pickles at $8 a jar. I asked her how hard they were to make and she assured me they’re quite easy. I’ve tried a few times and she was right. I got a new recipe this week from the Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This is Edition 32. I’m also adding in tips I’ve learned along the way and made some minor modifications. This blog entry is more hands on for newbies than conventional cookbooks.

First, buy 4 lbs pickling cucumbers. These are the stubby ugly cukes not the shiny salad ones. Choose ones with bumps. They’ll make for a better crunch. Buy a bag of onions as well.

Clean and cut the end off the cukes then slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. I use a mandolin to make ridges but it’s not necessary. Next, cut 8 small (I used 5 medium) onions into thin slices. Combine the onions and cuke slices with 1/3 cup pickling salt. I used Kosher salt. I’m not sure what the difference is but mine works fine and you can buy it anywhere. Set them in a bowl and cover with ice then with a towel. Weigh it down with something heavy. I use my flour canister. Leave for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill your canning pot (huge pan made for canning) with enough water to cover the jars and place a lid on top.  

At the 90 minute mark (time for the salt to draw liquid from cucumber mix), turn the stove on high and let the water in the canner start to boil. It takes a long time.

Thoroughly rinse all the salt off the onion, cucumber mixture. Drain and rinse and drain again. This is very IMPORTANT. My batch a few months ago was ruined because there was too much salt left on the veggies.

Clean your jars with hot sudsy water  (even if they’re new) and set aside. Place your caps in a pan of water to boil  and then simmer them. These need to stay bacteria-free so leave them in the hot water till the last second. Place your bands next to the jars. Get out your ladle and large mouth funnel and set those aside for later. If you can’t find a special funnel, cut the bottom off a paper cup. It’s messy but it works fine.

Next, in a large saucepan add all the below ingredients together. Once added, bring them to a boil stirring occasionally.

2 cups sugar, 2 tbls mustard seed, 2 tsps tumeric, 2 tsps celery seed, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp peppercorns, 3 cups white vinegar. (I’ve used apple vinegar as well)

Once boiled, fold in the onion/cuke mixture. You’ll notice as the water returns to a boil, the cucumbers will turn from dark green to faded pickle green.

When you’re at a good boil again, shut off the stove and start ladling the mixture into jars. I used quart jars but the next size down would be fine. Leave 1/4 inch headspace and add liquid with the solids. Adjust two-piece caps. Don’t overtighten. Add the jars to the now-boiling water canner. Wait for the water to boil again (shouldn’t take more than a minute or two) then process (meaning, sit and wait) for 10 minutes. The jar lids will pop noisily. This is normal.

After 10 minutes (don’t cook too long) remove from heat. With tongs, take the jars out and set on a towel on the counter. Don’t touch them for 24 hours. The book says it takes 4-6 weeks for the flavor to fully develop but I always open one as soon as the 24 hours is up to try them.

I hope you enjoy your canning experience. Let me know how it works for you.


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.