Fun Facts

    • I’m the oldest of three children. My younger brothers used to call me “sarge.”
    • Those same younger brothers once chased me around the house with a kitchen knife. This was after they realized they didn’t have to do everything I told them and stopped being my personal slaves.
    • One of my brothers threw an empty beer can at me splitting my eyebrow and requiring stitches. I think I might have been yelling up the attic stairs at him. And, no, he hadn’t been drinking. It was the 70’s when kids started beer can collections of craft beers across the country. You couldn’t get them at any grocery or liquor store like you can now.
    • I once took a personality test for a job and the test scorer told my prospective boss that I could give a drill Sargent a run for his money. (I got the job!)
    • Another personality test I took said that I am ‘results oriented.’
    • My twenty-something son told me a few years ago to stop ‘trying to manage’ him. ~ ~ Do you see a pattern emerging?!?! Now that he’s on his own we don’t have that problem anymore. I’ve really tried to squelch this tendency in myself over the years, but it doesn’t seem to be working!! 🙂 If you want someone to boss you around, I’m your girl! (Although I choose to see this as a sign of my leadership skills and not inherent bossiness!!)
    • I like to make things. Especially using textiles – I sew, knit, felt – I love upcycling things from Goodwill into pillows, scarves, mittens, purses, etc.
    • I held the indoor record for the 220 yard dash – so long ago it was before metrics – at my high school for several years.
    • If I suddenly had  free day I would plan out what I wanted to do so I would be sure to do everything I wanted. I would even plan out my relaxation time.
    • I speak a little French from high school and whenever I travel to another country with a different language, no matter what the language is, I have an irresistible urge to speak French.
    • When I was in France years ago I gave a man helping us with a broken down car the okay sign…and he looked at me oddly. Apparently, in French it means ‘you suck’ or better yet ‘you’re an a-hole’. Nice way for me to thank him!
    • I don’t like to sit still and do nothing, so I often bring knitting with me.
    • I have boy/girl twins and when they were little people would ask me if they were identical…nooooo, one’s a boy and one’s a girl. Remember high school biology?
    • My freshman high school biology teacher told me I should be a nurse because I was doing so well in the class. When I came home and told my mom she said “You should be a doctor.” I have her to thank for always believing I could be anything I wanted to be. 🙂 That was the beginning of my love of science.
    • My senior high school Advance Placement biology teacher was what we used to call a ‘male chauvinist pig’. Another girl and I were doing extremely well in the class and he couldn’t deal with it, so he barely acknowledged us. We both scored 5’s on the AP exam. I still remember his face when we told him. Winning is the best revenge.

Here is the Real Bio

I haven’t always been a writer. Many writers kept journals when they were young and wrote stories and dreamed of becoming a writer. That wasn’t me. I don’t journal, I make lists. Lists of things to do, grocery lists, lists of ideas or topics, you name it. I keep a spiral notebook for each project. I also like pretty office supplies, like notebooks, pens and pencils and stickers and file folders. You’d think I’d be very organized, but it’s just a futile attempt to control the chaos!

I’ve always been a voracious reader. I’ve started getting books on tape to listen to while I’m driving – I drive A LOT! I also read books on my iPad, my iphone (in a pinch – its not my first choice) and of course REAL books. So many books, so little time!

I have a degree in biology and thought I would be a doctor at one point. My path didn’t lead that way, but science plays a big role in my writing. I think the author who influenced my writing the most is Madeline L’Engle who’s writing combined elements of science fiction and the spiritual/metaphyscial. All of my novels have an environmental theme and incorporate true science in addition to science fiction.  INDIAN SUMMER has an archeological and historical theme, and also an environmental conservation element. THE FIELD also has the environmental theme and delves into quantum physics and The Universal Energy Field (as well as high school soccer). I know, sounds thick, but it’s a good read! The third book, CATALYST, carries on with the environmental theme as it deals with fracking.

I started writing when my kids began reading and I rediscovered all the books I loved as a child and new books I’d yet to discover. I found myself developing stories of my own so I began writing novels for children and young adults. Images from my childhood growing up on Lake Michigan and the landscape of Indiana feature prominently in my novels.

I live in Indianapolis in a eclectic part of town called Broad Ripple. Lots of shops and restaurants, coffee shops and a few bars. I like traveling, gardening, reading YA novels, knitting, sewing, felting – anything to do with fiber arts – rummaging through junk shops, cooking, spending time outdoors and dancing!

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Painting Class

Artistic talent runs in my family. My mother was a talented painter and wordsmith, my dad is excelling at watercolors and my children draw and paint and do graphic design and attend college at Columbia College Chicago for music and photography. While I’ve always had a certain affinity for textiles, part of me has always wanted to paint. Specifically, I want to paint luscious landscapes with oils. I figured that I first had to learn the basics, so I signed up for a painting class at Magdalena Gallery of Arts in the Carmel Arts and Design District. What an lovely place! I am having so much fun. Two of the other artists are my age and are very talented, but they swear that they started off just like me. The other student is a young lady who is benefitting from hearing all the ‘women’s talk.’ Got me to thinking about the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and how as women we should consider it our sacred role to share with the younger generation what it means to be a woman. But I digress!!

Here is what I did the first week in class.painting class 1-2013 003

I was secretly very pleased when Magdalena told me that I was very good at drawing!! I couldn’t do an exact drawing, so I aimed for the ‘feel’ of the flowers. In the second week I started painting the flowers, and although they arn’t terrible, they don’t look the way I imagine it in my head. Of course, I’m not finished with the painting, yet.

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What is really the best part of painting is not the finished product, but the ‘flow.’ My personal initiative for 2013 is to be in The Flow whenever possible, whatever I’m doing. I want to be so engrossed, and thus fulfilled, by what I’m doing that I lose myself in the activity and get in The Flow. Of course, what I really want is for my rose to look like this.

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Maybe someday I will be able to paint the cover image for one of my books! I just have to keep reminding myself to enjoy the process, because we are never finished.

Thai Green Curry

I love watching Food Network, or as my husband calls it, Food Porn. I think cooking is a creative activity and I like getting ideas for new dishes, how to use spices and seeing the fabulous kitchens and gadgets they use. My favorites are Ina Garten also know as The Barefoot Contessa, Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman), and Giada Di Laurentiis (my husband likes her, too, which may be due entirely to her clevage. This also contributes to the ‘food porn’ remark, I think!)

The problem with cooking at my house is that we are a thoroughly modern family in our eating habits. When the kids are home we have two vegetarians, a meat and potatoes lover and a no-carb eater. So when I make a meal, I have to be able to serve it multiple ways to avoid making three different things. I’m actually considering a cookbook on the matter – someday in my spare time, ha!

The other night I made Thai Green Curry. I soooo love Thai green curry that I could probably just drink the curry sauce on its own. I’m sure it is because of the full-fat coconut milk – which is actually on the no-carb diet!

These are the ingredients.

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I know this picture is out of focus, but I don’t have a very good camera. At least that’s my excuse. When I actually do work on the cookbook, I’ll have my daughter, the professional photographer, take the pictures.

This is the finished dish for the vegetarians. Lots of brown rice, but no pork!

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This is the no-carb version for me! No brown rice, but roasted califlower instead, and lots of pork. Yum!

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I don’t have a picture of the meat and carb version for my son as he was working late at The Butcher Shop!!!

Here are tentative titles for my cookbook – “Feeding the Modern Family – Carnivore, Omnivore, Vegetarian and sometimes Vegan”, or “Cooking for the Modern Family….” What do you think? Would you buy it?

Winking at the Moon

Last fall I went to a public star gaze with the Indiana Astronomical Society to do research on my novel, THE FIELD. Eric, my protagonist, goes to a public star gaze and I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like. It was a wonderful night! The amature astronomers were so generous in sharing their telescopes and pointing out celestial objects. Neil Armstong had recently passed away and his family requested that people ‘Wink at the Moon’ to honor him the next time they saw the moon. Here are my friend Susan and I winking at the moon with members of the Indiana Astronomical Society. Godspeed Neil!

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A Walk in the Woods

Last weekend my husband and I went on a hike through Eagle Creek park on the Eagle Creek reservior. It had warmed up considerably and melted all the snow we’d gotten over the holidays, so it was very muddy and wet. There was actually standing water on some of the trails and it was drizzily outside. Not many other hikers were out, but there were a few runners and we saw several deer.
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This stream was quietly serene and beautiful.

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The raindrops gathered prettily on the branches.

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This little waterfall made lovely music.

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And these gentle deer watched us curiously while they foraged for food.

 

Dog in the Compost Pile

Here’s a story from last summer.

Guess what I found in the compost pile? Ernie The Dog! I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready and I heard a quiet ‘woof’. I didn’t see Ernie anywhere, but then I heard the ‘woof’ again. I checked outside and this is what I found.

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Ernie loves corn-on-the-cob. We had eaten Indiana sweet corn for dinner that night and put the cobs in the compost pile. Hungering after this delectible treat, Ernie jumped into the compost pile, but then he couldn’t get out! Silly dog. 🙂

Wool Scarves and Mittens

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since May! So much has been happening. My son and daughter (twins) left for college in September and I finished the rought draft of my novel THE FIELD featuring Eric Horton, the older brother of Marcie from INDIAN SUMMER. More on THE FIELD to come in another post.

Here are some projects I’ve been working on.

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Santa brought me this jacket for Christmas and I knitted this scarf to go with it! Okay, I picked out the jacket myself and Mrs. Claus gave it to me!

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My new obsession is felting sweaters and making stuff with them. Felting involves washing old wool sweaters from Goodwill in very hot water so the fibers in the wool ‘felt’ together and make a fabric you can cut that won’t fray or unravel at the edges. I made these mittens for my cousin, but don’t you think they match perfectly with my old Lands’ End jacket? I may have to keep them for myself!

These are pillows I made from sweaters and rick-rack that I bought years ago at Tuesday Morning thinking that I would someday have a use for it.

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Having the kids go off for college was hard, but it’s the next stage for them and they’re having a great time! It also freed me up for my next stage in life! First step – take over the band room in the basement. I’ve transformed the space into my craft room. I can’t share pics at the moment as it is still a mess from various projects, but stay tuned! Craft on!

Summer Reading Recommendation – A Conversation with ASHFALL author, Mike Mullin

A couple weekends ago I attended a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) conference at McCormick’s Creek State Park. It was a wonderful conference and I left feeling very energized with lots of ideas for my work-in-progress. While I was there, I caught up with SCBWI member, Mike Mullin, author of, ASHFALL, a dystopian young adult novel about the eruption of the Yellowstone Park supervolcano. ASHFALL is getting rave reviews being and is touted as a book for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES. ASHEN WINTER, the next novel in the trilogy is coming out this FALL. Here’s a link to Mike’s webpage. http://www.mikemullinauthor.com/ 

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.

Conversation with Mike Mullin, author of ASHFALL –

Tracy: I’d like to talk with you from a writer’s perspective. Once you got the idea that you wanted to write about the supervolcano, how did it evolve for you? How do the ideas come? How do you work on getting those ideas?

Mike: The idea came from reading another book, Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of NearlyEverything”, and I thought Ah ha, supervolcano. I’ve always been interested in disaster fiction. I’ve been an avid reader of apocalyptic fiction all my life and I thought here’s an apocalypse. I’ve always shied away from writing about one because it seems like they’ve all been done, and done well. I mean if I want to read a great book about tsunami’s or tornados, or what have you, it’s out there. Plenty of volcano stories out there. So the supervolcano, I thought that maybe no one has written about that and it turned out at the time that I had the idea nobody had. Now there a couple books about super volcanos which is fine, of course.

T: After yours or before?

M: After. Mine is the first and now Harry Turtledove has a novel titled “Supervolcano: Eruption,” which is an adult novel.

T: Do you think your book was part of him writing his novel?

M: No, just a coincidence. They were in the pipeline at the same time. It came out only two months after ASHFALL.  He got the idea from watching the national geographic special on it. He probably started writing his about a year or two after I started ASHFALL.

I read lots of YA (young adult) and I’ve always read YA, so it felt very natural for me to write in that genre. From there it was just a matter of thinking, okay, so I need a teenager and I needed to put him in a situation where his parents wouldn’t be around, because I don’t want the novel to be about the parents.

T: Which is what Margaret McMullan was just saying. ( Award winning author of SOURCES OF LIGHT and keynote speaker at the SCBWI conference.)

M: Exactly. So the idea of having his parents be visiting relatives just flowed naturally from that, from trying to figure out how to structure it to be a good YA novel. As far as finding the idea for the teenager that really came from my research. I did tons and tons of research on volcanos, obviously, but I also knew that I needed my protagonist to have some kind of special ability, something that was special about him to be able to survive this horrible, horrible natural disaster I was going to put him through. But I wanted to write realistic fiction. I didn’t want to have any magic. I thought that the way I would make my book different from all the dystopian novels I’ve read would be by making it intensely realistic. Something that could happen and would happen. So I decided that my main character would be a martial artist. The only bad part was that I didn’t know any martial arts. So I started taking Taekwondo and I thought I would just take it for a while, but it turned out I really enjoyed it and stuck with it and finally earned my black belt just before ASHFALL came out and now it’s a big part of my school presentation.

T: Which is really great!

M: Yeah, I break blocks! Its fun.

T: Which is kind of amazing when you think about it.

M: I enjoy it. I like breaking stuff, what can I say. Also, I met there (at the Taekwondo Dojang), Ben Alexander who’s this fifteen year old third degree black belt. This was back when I was just a white belt and he was really patient and would explain things over and over again. Just a really great kid. He’s kind of small – he comes up to about here on me (indicates mid chest). I’ve got probably 80 pounds on him and tons of reach. He’s so friendly and helpful but then we have at our dojang what we call Friday night fights. We strap pads on our hands and feet and chest protectors and helmets and then we try to kick the crud out of each other. It’s awesome! Ben Alexander can pretty much kick me in the head and knock me down any time he wants to. He’s that much better. Even now, he’s still a third degree black belt, and I have my black belt now, but he’s just so much faster. I thought, ah ha! That’s the guy I need to have in my mind as I’m writing my character and that’s why my protagonist in ASHFALL is named Alex after Ben Alexander. I don’t know why I didn’t like Ben (the name, not the boy!), but he didn’t feel like a Ben to me so I used Alex.

T: So do you find that ideas just sort of pop into your head; that they come to you that way? And when you’re actually starting to write – let’s talk about that, too. Do you do an outline? I know one author says he throws all the ideas into a box and then takes it out and storyboards it. What’s your process?

M: Before I wrote ASHFALL, I had a YA horror novel that I ‘pantsed’. I had the idea and the characters and just wrote it as I went and figured out where it was going as I was writing. (Mike’s wife, Margaret sees my confusion about the term ‘pantsed’ and interjects ‘By the seat of your pants’ to clarify for me. I am obviously not up on writer jargon!) And that novel was so bad that I sent it to three literary agents and two of them quit the business forever!

When I was doing ASHFALL, I actually plotted it out. I wrote a very rough, chaotic five page outline before I started writing. And planned things like here’s how I’m going to get his parents away and planned it basically all out. Darla was in that outline.

T: How true was it?

M: To what I actually ended up writing? Not very. I wound up diverging from it. And some of the best parts of the novel are where I allowed myself to diverge from the outline. Many people tell me that their favorite part of ASHFALL is chapters 37 and 38 and when I’m asked, I usually say chapters 37 and 38.

T: Tell me what happens in those.

M: It’s when Alex and Darla meet Katie and her mom on the road.

T: Is that with the little girls in the snow suits?

M: Yeah. Exactly. With the blond hair. They were never in any outline, or any plan. I wrote that while I was out in Portland visiting my uncle Chuck who was then dying of stage four colon cancer. When I’m drafting, I try to write absolutely every day. So I would get up in the morning at 5 or 6 and write for a couple of hours until my uncle Chuck would get up about 10 or 11am. He’s very sick at this point. He died two weeks after I left. Then I’d put my writing aside and spend the rest of the day with my uncle Chuck. The thing that affected me most deeply about that wasn’t so much watching my uncle Chuck die as watching his family around him; his kids and his wife who were just trying to shower love on him even while they are obviously already grieving; deeply into this grief process. And so I think from that I wrote this woman who had just lost her husband and was trying to protect her children and found that she couldn’t. I know that really worked because one of the revision techniques I use is to either read my work aloud, or better yet, have it read out loud. And so I’ll volunteer to drive Margaret, my wife, to her education conferences. So I’m driving her to this education conference in Pittsburg and she’s reading the draft of ASHFALL out loud in the passenger seat – because it’s really better if you don’t read and drive.

T: Yes, I’ve tried it, but not a good idea.

M: And I hear this little noise and I look over and she’s doing this kind-of quiet crying thing and there’s just tears streaming down her face and I thought, YES, I’ve nailed it! I’ve made my wife cry. I’m a great writer and a terrible husband.

T: (Laughs) But that is exactly what you want. You want to get that emotion. So when in the writing of ASHFALL, or maybe it wasn’t during the writing, did you start getting ideas for the sequels?

M: Actually when I was doing the outline, before it was ever written, I had a rough idea. I realized that I had way more story than would fit in one book, and that ASHFALL would probably work best if it was really tightly compressed. ASHFALL takes place over six or eight weeks; just a real short snapshot of Alex’s journey and I really wanted to end on a real note of hope where the reader would have some confidence that Alex had a future. And the volcanic winter after an eruption like I’m depicting is going to be brutal and at least three years, possibly as long as ten years. So I couldn’t finish on that sense of hope that I wanted. So I did do a very rough sketch of this is what belongs in the second book and this is what belongs in the third book and as I was drafting ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER I would keep track of the things that didn’t fit and I kept outlining SUNRISE, the third book, off and on all through the process. When I actually sat down to do the outline to send to my publisher to sell SUNRISE, it was just a matter of putting everything place. Formalizing it rather than creating it. So I’ve had a rough arc for the trilogy since before I wrote ASHFALL.

T: Do you find that while you were writing ASHFALL that you wanted to start writing ASHEN WINTER?

M: Oh, all the time. Ideas come all the time. You get random ideas. You think ‘here’s this really cool idea, I should go write this.’ The way I deal with that is I open a new file on my computer and I write down everything I know about this shiny new idea and then I go back to work. Because you can’t sell an unfinished novel! So the nice thing about that is that I have fifteen or twenty of those little files with chunks of novels or ideas. Some of them are just a few paragraphs and some that are ten or fifteen pages with scenes all written out. When I finish the ASHFALL trilogy I’ll open them up and see which one I’m most interested in writing next.

T: So you don’t have writer’s block most of the time.

M: No, there are definitely days when I have trouble with that, absolutely. What I typically will do – what works for me – it to get out of the house, go for a bike ride, go for a walk, get some kind of physical activity. Sometimes sitting down in an unusual place. I’m a nomadic writer. Anywhere where I’ve got my lap top, I’ll sit down and write. Sometimes I just walk into a new place and sit down and start typing.

T: When I do talks, one of the things that I always say is that imagination is really the most important thing. Einstein said it – of course you have to be able to have a good craft – but having the idea is the key. So any words of wisdom to pass on to writers or people wanting to be published?

M: All I really tell students in my talks is read a lot, write a lot, submit or self-publish your work. It’s that easy and that difficult. Michael Grant says sort of the same thing. I heard his school presentation a few weeks ago, except he says ‘Live a Lot’, so that you can have something to write about.

T: Right, like Margaret (McMullan) said, it’s boring to write about someone sitting in a room alone.

M: Exactly.

T: Okay, great! Thank you so much!

Graduation

My son and daughter are graduating from high school this year. I find myself being very excited for them and perhaps even a little jealous. They will be attending college in downtown Chicago – right across from Grant Park and Navy Pier with a view of Lake Michigan. One thing that I never did was live in the city after college. I guess I can live a little vicariously through my children. They are following creative pursuits -music management and comtemporary music, and photography and graphic design.  They are both very talented artists. The interesting thing is how many people want to tear their dreams down before they’ve even started or tell them that they can’t ‘make a living’ as an artist or to be ‘realistic’.  Is it that these people have thwarted dreams of their own? I even know of a young lady who dreams of being a baker whose mother told her that she can either major in business or education, not culinary arts. Why would you want to subject your child to life in a cubicle? And last time I checked, teaching jobs were pretty hard to come by. I find that very sad. I told her to take cooking classes as electives and learn about the business of owning her own bakery!

I’m not a very nostalgic person, and while I am sad that my children will be leaving home soon and will miss them and all of their friends and all the positive energy that they bring, I am really so excited for the adventure they are about to embark on. Frankly, I’m also a little excited about the adventures that I am about to embark on, because, now its gonna be all about me! 🙂

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

 

“Find your passion and then you will have found your purpose.” ~ Bishop T.D. Jakes

World Book Night

Here I am picking up my books from Big Hat Books and Arts in Broad Ripple for World Book Night! I am going to use the books to host a book group this summer at the Westminister Neighborhood Ministries children’s summer camp. We’ll be reading “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo.  I think I’m more excited than the the kids! If we finish “Because of Winn Dixie” then I will have them read “Indian Summer.”

Thursday I did an author talk at the Canterbury School Book Fair for third graders. Very fun! One of the other authors brought her dog, Martha, who was fabulously well behaved and sweet. Of course the kids loved her! Its hard to compete with a dog. 🙂

 Then on Friday I went to the Christamore House Author Luncheon, a benefit with five authors speaking and selling their books to fund the Christamore House children’s programs. Books, Books, Books ~all to benefit kids! Yeah!