Browning Mountain – Stonehenge in Southern Indiana II

To celebrate the release of CATALYST, Book II in The Catalysts Series, on September 22nd, I’m doing a blog series on some of the research I did to create the story. I LOVE research – anything for a road trip!!

In CATALYST, Lorraine and Zeke, the two mysterious graduate students on the Angel Mounds archaeological dig, take Marcie, Eric, Leo and Renee to Greystone Mountain in Southern Indiana. There they tell the teens about their mission to save Earth and demonstrate some incredible abilities while surrounded by the dozens of huge, rectangular stones for which the mountain is named

I didn’t create Greystone Mountain entirely from my imagination. As often happens in fiction, I took an actual place, in this case, Browning Mountain in Brown County, Indiana, and morphed it into a site in my story.

Browning Mountain has been called the Stonehenge of southern Indiana because resting at the hill’s summit are several dozen huge rectangular stones – many the size of a compact car – and no one knows how they got there.

Scientists say that the type of rock comprising these stones is not from the region. There are plenty of quarries in southern Indiana where it could have originated, but it didn’t. So the question is – what is it? Is it man made or naturally occurring?

Having seen the stones myself, they are so precisely rectangular, even given the effects of time, and arranged in such regular patterns, that I can’t imagine they are anything but man made.

Could the indiginous people of the area from thousands of years ago have erected a stone circle of the likes of Stonehenge in southern Indiana? I think the answer is yes. The other question, though, is how did the stones get on top of the mountain? It is a pretty tough two hour climb to the top going steadily up hill. Did they have some kind of technolgy that has been lost over the ages? I think it would be easy to simply say that the stones are naturally occuring since we don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m not sure that we would be correct.

Ancient cultures may not have been as advanced as we are technologically, but they may have had a wisdom about the energies of the earth and the Universe that we have lost. It is definitely food for thought. What do you think?

The Catalysts Series

Catalyst

First some updates on Catalyst. Due to Physical Distancing and Social Connections (as I prefer to call it) the paperback release date has been pushed back to September 22nd. However…

the Ebook release date is still June 2nd!!!

Less than two weeks away! Order your copy today!!

I hope to do a Book Tour for Catalyst this Fall. Check out my Events Page for details later this summer.

The Catalysts Series

The Catalysts Series will consist of four books.

The FieldBook I

Catalyst – Book II

Indian Summer ­– prequel

and the untitled Book III that I’m working on now (80 pages in!!).

Book III is the only true sequel (to Catalyst). The other three books can be read as stand-alone books although many of the same characters appear throughout. I’ve included an environmental theme in all of the books.

The Field is about Eric Holton, a high-school soccer goalkeeper with a super-natural ability to know where the ball is going to go before it gets there. He’s connecting to the Universal Energy Field. The environmental theme compares burning coal to other clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar and also the idea of extracting energy from the Universal Energy field in the air around us. And he’s having the high school experience of trying to get the starting goalkeeper spot, deal with friends being jerks, and trying to get the girl.

In Catalyst, Eric’s younger sister, Marcie, is the protagonist, but Eric and his girlfriend Renee are also featured characters. Eric has just graduated high school and Marcie is a junior.

Marcie, Eric and Renee are spending the summer working at an archaeological dig site in southern Indiana. Things immediately shift into the paranormal when Lorraine and Zeke, two mysterious dig assistants who claim to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds, assert that Earth and its resources are in grave danger. Marcie must decide if she’s brave enough to do her part to save the planet. The environmental theme in Catalyst is the dangers of fracking.

In the first book I wrote, Indian Summer, Marcie is in middle school and is spending the summer at her grandparents’ lake cottage. She discovers that a wealthy property owner is secretly trying to develop an old-growth forest into an exclusive gated community. In her quest to thwart his efforts, Marcie connects with the spirit of a Native American girl. Indian Summer has been completely revised and will be re-released in 2021 as a prequel to The Field and Catalyst.

Book III is in the works right now! I’m writing it from both Marcie and Eric’s point of view. There are two concurrent story lines. Eric and Renee are in France and Marcie is in Washington DC. There is some interaction between the two threads and everything will come together at the end.

During this Great Pause we are having I hope you’ve been able to consider how you might chose to change your behavior going forward. Have you re-evaluated your priorities? Will you focus more on what’s important to you and let other, non-important things go by the wayside?

Protecting the environment and saving planet Earth is very important to me and I think essential for our quality of life going forward. I hope my books make you think and consider what you can do to be a Catalyst for change.

Take care and be well, my friends.

Research Trip – Washington DC

I’m working on Book III of The Catalysts series. It will be from both Marcie and Eric’s perspectives. Marcie is in Washington, DC and Eric is in France. I’m heavily into the Research portion of the writing process!! I LOVE research!!

Before Social Distancing for COVID-19 started I took a research trip to Washington DC for background on what Marcie might be doing and seeing while she’s there. I’m hoping to make a research trip to France in the next year or to do the same for Eric’s POV.

Here are some pics from the trip.

The Capital at Night
Washington Monument
Segway Tour of DC was fun!! It was sunny, but COLD!! I was FREEZING – still smiling!
Spring had arrived in DC!
I walked over nine miles one day – maybe a bit much only four months after breaking my ankle!!!
Had to ice my ankle that night!!

What are you doing to keep busy and engaged and positive during Social Distancing?

catalyst1

Catalyst – WIP – First Page

The third book in The Field family is Catalyst. It’s written from Eric’s younger sister, Marcie’s perspective when she is 17 years old and Eric is 19 – two years older than in The Field. In Indian Summer, the first book chronologically, Marcie is 12 and experiences visions of a Native American girl guiding her as well as premonitions and synchronicities.

Here’s the first page of Catalyst. It went through about a dozen re-writes and this may not even be the final iteration. What do you think? Does it grab your attention and draw you in?

Catalyst

Chapter 1

I’ve had glimpses of something beyond my five senses. Usually it’s premonitions and intuition, but four years ago when I was in middle school I communicated with the spirit of a Native American girl. I want to experience that again, but I don’t know how. Sometimes she inhabits my dreams and I wake up wishing I could connect with her while I’m awake and wondering if I imagined it all in the first place. It feels like a door that was once open to me is shut and I don’t have the key. Thinking about it gives me a vague, unsettled feeling. It’s like something is missing from my life.

I give myself a mental shake and pull the door handle to get out of the car, determined not to give in to anxious thoughts. Hopefully the next few weeks will keep my mind occupied with other things.

We arrive at the Angel Mounds archaeological dig site in time for dinner. That’s when all the students in the field study are supposed to arrive for orientation and a ‘meet-and greet’ evening as my mom refers to it. It’s her dig. She’s an archaeologist at the University and I’ve been to several of her sites over the years, but this is my first time actually working on a site. Not bad for a summer job – at least that’s what I’m hoping. It’s unpaid, but still great experience. She was able to get all three of us – me, my bother Eric and his girlfriend, Renee – spots on the dig team.

 I’m checking out the people milling around the clearing when I see them. Their presence immediately commands my attention.

Most of the others are probably college students from the University, archaeology or anthropology students, doing a summer field study course, but these two are different.

The man suddenly turns and looks me straight in the eye. It’s as if he senses me looking at him, or thinking about him. Because that’s how it feels. Like he’s reaching out and touching my thoughts. I hear him say, ‘hello, Marcie’, not audibly, but inside my mind. I take a slight step back, startled, but hold his gaze and the connection between us. In my previous experiences I’d never heard words spoken. Just thoughts and feelings. He inclines his head toward me and touches the brim of his hat before returning to talk to his blond companion. I’m a little disturbed by the whole exchange. Something about him makes me uneasy. My skin shivers and I rub my arms to dispel the feeling. Who is this guy and how had he communicated with me?

I shift my gaze to the woman. Her caramel-colored hair is braided into a heavy rope hanging down her back and she’s gesturing in smooth, fluid motions as she talks. She gives the impression of being both still and animated, reminding me of a cat stalking its prey, immobile save for the twitching of its tail. Contained is the word that comes to mind. The way her eyes roam over the other waiting people, stopping only briefly to look at me, enhances the feline resemblance.

Indian Summer

Indian Summer Revisions – Mystical Trees

I’m working on revisions to Indian Summer, the prequel to The Field – adding more conflict and more mystical experiences. The story revolves around Eric’s younger sister, Marcie, trying to save an old growth forest from development, so I decided to give the trees a leading role. Here’s a short excerpt that I recently added.

The cool dimness beneath the canopy envelops me when I step into the woods. My footfalls are muffled by the carpet of leaves beneath my feet as I make my way between closely packed trunks and over fallen logs deeper into the filtered light. I’m not sure what I’m looking for or if I’m looking for anything at all, but I feel welcomed into this place by the trees. I place my palms on the trunks as I pass in a sort-of greeting or acknowledgement, I don’t know which.

            When I’ve gone about fifty yards, I come to a massive maple tree. The one we call Grandmother tree.  The kids use it for home base in our games of kick-the-can and sardines. Its branches extend far into the sky arching outward to create a protective shelter above me. I stand in front of it, or her, as I think of it, for a while and then feel compelled to walk up to her and place my palms on her rough bark. The whispering I heard in Jamison bay is strong here. Are the trees communicating with me?

            I put my arms around Grandmother tree and place my cheek against her bark. These woods and this tree are like old friends. They’re a part of my childhood. I don’t hear any words, but I imagine that Grandmother tree knows how I feel.

Butt In Chair

People are always telling me they want to be a writer or they have an idea for a book. They want to know how to do it. There’s a saying among writers – BIC – Butt In Chair. To be a writer you have to actually write! Obvious, right?!?! Those same people often come back to me again and again and say the same thing. The answer is always the same. Sit your fanny down and write!

I recently visited Creekside Middle School to talk with aspiring writers about What It Takes to Be a Writer.

Here are some highlights from the talk.

~Read – anything and everything.

~Observe – get ideas from people and places around you.

~Exercise your imagination – Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge.

~Create a Good Story Arc and a Memorable Hero

~Write – obvious, right?

~Revise – Your first draft is never your last draft. It probably sucks!

The most important thing, though, is to get started. Revising is a lot easier that writing the first draft, but you can’t revise a blank page.

Choose Your Big Rocks

Choose Your Big Rocks First

See the source image
Do you ever waste time doing unimportant things and find there’s no time left for what you really want to accomplish? Remember the analogy we learned in that class about setting our priorities and managing our time? It pays to revisit it.
Put your big rocks in your container first then fill it up with sand and water. Your big rocks are your goals and priorities. The container is your life. If you focus on your goals first you’re more likely to accomplish them and the rest will fill up around them.

Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

People are often told to work on improving areas where they are “weakest’ to better themselves. That never made sense to me. Focus on your strengths, accentuate the positive, grow to your highest potential.

Wishing that you achieve your highest goals.

Writer’s Block and Beer

A friend recently sent me this picture –

writers block beer

I can see sharing a beer with Mr. Shakespeare to help alleviate writer’s block! Or several beers! 😉 At least we’d have a good time. ***I just realized this is Pinot Noir, NOT beer. Oh, well, it has the same effect.

Fortunately, I’ve never suffered from true writer’s block. There have been times when I’m not sure how a scene will unfold or what direction the plot will go, but I find that if I approach it from another direction, the way will become clear. Usually that means working on another part of the novel where I’m sure of the way, or reviewing what I’ve already written to get a sense of what comes next.

My subconscious or higher self is where my ideas germinate. Thinking about the plot doesn’t generally produce great insights. I find that if I mull it over and spend some time brainstorming, researching and writing down ideas and go off to do something else – or go to sleep – and let things percolate, at some point ideas will start popping into my head. I always have a notebook with me so I can jot them down, but once the path of the plot unfolds, it becomes ‘real’ and I don’t forget it.

Many writers will tell you the book ‘writes itself’ or characters will do things that surprise you and change the trajectory of the plot. I find that’s true for me. When I get into the creative writing ‘zone’, it just flows out of me. I know what’s going to happen next and what the characters are going to do and say. Sometimes it’s not what I’d planned or expected, but it’s almost always better.

Right now I am revising Indian Summer, the first novel chronologically of the three companion books, which will be published after The Field as a prequel. I’m getting good feedback from my writers’ group and I can see how much I’ve progressed as a fiction writer since I started writing it about 13 years ago. I’m excited about the new, polished result.

I’m also starting to get ideas for the fourth novel of the quartet, which will provide what I hope is a satisfactory conclusion. More to come on that later!

Keep being creative!