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Catalyst is about fracking and climate change with supernatural and science fiction elements thrown in for good measure! Eric’s younger sister, Marcie is the protagonist, but Eric and Renee have their roles to play, too.
There’s also a Goodreads Advance Review Copy giveaway going on until February 11th. Click here to enter to win!
Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained—an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.
This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her dig teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds—something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with. Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history.
It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.
4 Star Review for The Field by Storybook Reviews
This book actually surprised me because sometimes sci-fi/paranormal books are and miss with me. But this story of a young man’s ability to absorb the energy around him and see or sense things intrigued me. Since this is a YA book, it wouldn’t be complete without the usual teenage drama and young love.
This story follows Eric, an up and coming goalie for the high school he attends. He has a younger sister and brother with whom he has a good relationship. Actually, he has a good relationship with all of his family which is refreshing to see considering what we see in the news. The drama or angst comes from his friends and their shenanigans, which is not uncommon for a teenager. Eric has some strange dreams and has no idea what they could possibly mean until events prove his dreams to be a reality and not just some weird dream.
I enjoyed the science aspect of this story and the explanations of matter, energy, and harnassing it for the betterment of mankind. I think that all of this could be possible one day, perhaps sooner than we think. I also appreciated that the science in this book was thoroughly explained and not just glossed over. The author definitely put her degree to good use in this book.
There is romance between several of the characters and of course northing runs smoothly as is usual with teens. However, I felt that the advancement of the various relationships felt solid and realistic. The relationships were subdued and did not progress too much more than kissing.
We give this book 4 paws up and if you enjoy YA with a sci-fi or paranormal flair, you might want to pick this book up for your next read.
The idea behind The Field came from several different places. The first influence was metaphysical. We all experience it. The hunch that turns out to be true, running into a friend that you were just thinking about, the answer to a question you were pondering popping into your head or an eerily prophetic dream. I wanted to tell a story about a regular person, a normal person, who was having these types of experiences. Most of the YA paranormal stories that I read are about teens who are extra-ordinary in some way. They have special powers that no one else possesses. In The Field, Eric is an ordinary high school soccer player who is experiencing something more. He’s connecting to The Universal Energy Field and the Collective Consciousness; something that I believe we all can do.
The second influence was all of the disaster, post-apocalyptic literature out there. I like a good dystopian story as much as the next person, but I was starting to feel as if all we could see in the future was doom and gloom. I’d like to think that we are better than that. Certainly bad things happen and bad people exist, but why not focus on what is good? It doesn’t have to be sappy or boring, either. And it isn’t necessarily easy. Eric struggles with figuring out how to tap into The Field, how to play well in the goal, and in his relationships with his girlfriend and best friend. And it doesn’t end with him having all the answers. The process is what matters and what he learns is that he’ll never know everything and that it’s not important. He just needs to know that there is something more out there than we experience, if we just take the time to pay attention.
Environmental issues play an important role in my writing as well. I have a degree in biology and while I didn’t pursue science as a career, I am still very influenced by it. The earth is our home and I believe that we should take care of her. We live in a throw-away culture, not thinking about how our plastic bottles or lawn fertilizer will affect the world around us. I think the time is fast approaching when we’ll have to take notice. Really, it’s already here. In The Field I focus on so-called ‘Clean Coal’ and to some extent nuclear energy and compare them to other truly clean energy sources such as wind or solar and then I take it a step further. What if The Universal Energy Field is a source of energy that we can tap into? How would we do it? What is it? I don’t mean to claim that I have the answers, but there are brilliant scientists who are trying to find those answers. Again, it comes back to my belief that there is so much more in the Universe than we perceive or even imagine.
The soccer focus came naturally. Both my husband and son are soccer goal-keepers. Our son is still playing club soccer in college and my husband has coached travel and high school soccer for years. You could say that I am a soccer mom, but I wish you wouldn’t. Really. Even though I do have a van. And live in the suburbs. I will say that watching your son dive at the feet of a sprinting, teen-aged boy intent on scoring is the worst kind of torture. Let’s just say that my stomach was in knots most weekends and I spent a lot of time in the bathroom at games from nerves! In fact, our son recently sent a text message picture of himself with a broken nose from playing soccer while my husband and I were on vacation. At first we thought he’d been mugged or in a fight because there was no message accompanying the picture. Do you know what he said when we called him in a panic? “I made the save!” I did actually play one season of women’s league soccer myself, but after being drilled in the face with a ball and knocked completely off my feet, I was glad to discover that I was pregnant and could no longer play. (Okay, it was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My team wore pink socks. So not my color!)
Exploring these ideas through the vehicle of story presents a unique opportunity. In fiction, I can make things up (which I love), but I can also present new ideas in a way that is more accessible and approachable. I hope that my books allow people to look beyond what they think they know is true, and, hopefully, give them a really good story to enjoy while they’re doing it.
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.
T: Okay, great! Thank you so much!