Archive for the ‘Abyss’ Category

Change: pt. 2

by on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

My husband and I have been cleaning house. He has a new job, investment building, and he needs more space in his office. We have been purging old paperwork, making room for receipts and invoices, blueprints and design ideas. We both got new computers. There is more purge-of-the-old in transferring my life onto an new laptop. [Funny story: My husband thought that all my documents and computer stuff would fit on a thumb-drive. I was a little horrified to think that my entire life, a 9 year old computer, would fill such a small thing. Was that all that I was worth? Anyway, it didn’t. The photos alone filled the little driver. My music needed to be transferred to a hard drive. And then there were my books. All my writing filled another drive. I AM worth more that a thumb-drive!]

In the face of all the change-ness coming, I am also re-inventing myself as a writer. My perspective is changing, so is my image of the out-ward me.

My Turn To Grow Up has been a great venue for me to express my fears and loves. It  has been a place to vent and cry, explain and reason. But like an old notebook, it’s time to close the cover on these worn out pages. It’s time for me to turn over a new leaf. (I love this grounding platitude.)

Today I have a new website. I am no longer hiding behind a nameless entity, I am coming out to the world as Tracey Strohm Phillips, Author. In embracing my maiden name, there is a lot of fear coming up. There are issues I need to face involving my dad and brother. Issues that won’t be resolved painlessly. My need to write is growing. I have two new thrillers bouncing around in my head. Thrillers that are trying to escape. Thrillers that want to be written.

In the process, I feel like I’m bouncing off walls in a pitch dark room.

Change: pt.1

by on Friday, August 7th, 2015

It’s inevitable. Change. As unstoppable as the tides and as determined as waves beating down the edges of a shoreline.

I’m in it now. I see it as clearly as my hand in front of my face. The tides are pulling me.

A little history first: Family dynamics are an interesting thing. In mine,  the dynamics have remained- for the most part- the same since I became an adult. As Nana, our matriarch, rounds the curve into her one hundredth year (97 next week and still going strong) we all still pussyfoot around her rules and standards of perfection. But as the rest of us are aging, we have ripened into solid characters. Our roles in the family are developed and strong now. Our positions in the dynamic field, solid.

Allow me to clarify. Last week was my petite family’s reunion. There are 15 of us. If my brother was still part of the picture he and his family would make 18. Without him, we are a small bunch, not a crop. Hardly even a grove. Nana is the head and has been for a quarter century-since my grandfather died on a trip to Russia. Next in line come my mom and her sister. Both in their 70’s and both struggling with illnesses that will eventually take their lives. Of the next generation, there are 3 of us. My two cousins- the eldest and her family: a faithful husband of nearly 23 years and two sons, 22 and 16. Her brother never married but I count his girlfriend/companion  in the mix. The last 5 of our bunch include me, my husband, 2 adult children, and my daughter’s beau.

As far as dynamics go, the two sisters’ lung diseases have become a constant part of our lives-something they have been dealing with for ten or more years. The serious nature of the illness (both are diagnosed with mico-bacteria infections, asthma, and chronic pneumonia symptoms) has led us to consider that Nana will out live them both. But then what happens?

Though is seems closer than ever, the inevitable change, the deaths of the three matriarchs will come when it comes. I cherish every moment with them now. I try to learn as much as I can from them, conscious of what they contribute. I’m able to put a positive spin on the lessons they teach.  FYI, my learning process has always been a little backwards. I tend to first see the negative, (That’s the controlling, narcissistic part of our family dynamics shining through.) then I put my own positive spin on things: ie, this is what NOT to do.

What I’m struggling with isn’t really even important in the grand scheme of things.  Given the way things are in the hierarchy, the matriarchal matrix of our family, when the top three decline, the logical next “ruler” should be my eldest cousin- the one with the family. She should be the one to organize gatherings and pick us up when we are down. She should be the one to care take the sick and elderly, and help them organize and prepare. As it turns out, she is sick too.

I (well, yes I’ve seen it coming) am the only member of my generation capable of care-taking and organizing. I am the only one who can step up to the plate when the shit hits the proverbial fan. I am the one giving support where it’s needed. I am the advice giver, teacher and nursemaid. I am the leader.

This realization has come to me slowly. For many years I’ve been in denial, thinking that my cousin would magically recover from her mental illness and become responsible. I have let her brother manage things. He doesn’t enjoy it, but he lives in the same city they do. And I have stayed away.

Tides change. I am beginning to see the need for me to step up and take on this role of leader/caregiver/head of family. It is staring me in the face. It is calling me to duty. My mother is very sick now.


by on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

What a whirlwind. Last weekend I attended the best writing conference in the Midwest, the UW Writer’s Institute. My third year in a row, I think I took away more this year than ever before. Having built on the knowledge I had, what I learned will stay with me for a long time. The conference doesn’t end after the last class on Sunday. At noon when the last speaker is through, you stand up from the table, say farewell and good luck to fellow writers. On walking down the hotel steps into the lobby, you think you learned a lot. You are empowered, you are motivated, and you go home and write.

It doesn’t end there, though. It stays with you. Whether you go home to pitch the great American novel, or simply keep a diary, or blog about your dog, the lessons run deeply into your blood. They filter out to each capillary and nerve ending. When finally, it reaches your fingertips, you can’t help but take it to the keyboard or pick you a well worn pen. All that stuff you’re carrying around in your brain is sent in a stream onto the page.

I am inspired to keep doing it. To keep trying and to get published. I thought of another book idea this weekend, and now have three books to write this year…two to publish.

And life goes on. I can’t help it, I just write. Nothing can stop me, I hope someday you will be terrified by my thriller. Or fall in love with Orhianna, the heroine of my YA novel. Someday…

Layers of Cake

by on Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Ah, December. Cake. (You’ll see what I mean by that in a minute…) Shopping, and Merry making. Decorating and singing and playing Christmas songs on the piano. This season is also punctuated by test driving cars…and hopefully buying a new car in the next couple weeks. From October 24th to November 24th, we successfully hosted three recitals, a Halloween bash, a baby Reveal party, and Thanksgiving and for a few weeks now, the Phillips house hold get’s a reprieve from party season. Next I’ll be hosting my annual Holiday party and cookie exchange for all my students on Winter Solstice, then come the Christmases. Ah, and the holidays are upon us.

All of that is the exterior icing on the cake. Underneath that layer of decadent frosting is the real stuff. Since I finished Sumac, I’ve been sending Queries to agents. Already I’ve received three rejection letters. Two were sooo nice. Disappointing, but nice. This time I’ve decided to query all the agents from conferences I’ve been to first. It helps to have some connection to an agent when approaching them, and I thought that would be a good opening. It turns out it was. I did get one flat rejection, but the other two loved the query letter. One even went on to compliment my writing and wishing me success. (pasted in below because I wanted to save it.)

I sent four out for starters, and due to the nature of the rejections, usually due to the fact that they don’t represent Sci-fi, I revised my plan of attack.  Those agents did represent YA, but Sci-fi Fantasy is a sub-genre unto itself and now I’m doing the research to reach out to agents who DO represent YA Sci-fi.  Yea…guess I should have thought of that before. Genre is so important. If an agent doesn’t feel drawn to the story line, you’ve already lost them. Knowing what they represent is the first step to making a lasting impression.

So now I wait. That’s that inside icing layer. Only this one isn’t so tasty, filled with angst and self doubt. Am I doing the right thing? And  what if I do get an agent? Then the real work starts. Is writing Sumac and it’s successive books what I really want to do? If this works out for me, do I have to finally grow up? Does it mean I have arrived?

It certainly was fun!!

See what you think…

This summer was supposed to be the very best for ORHIANNA BRIGHTLY and her brother LIAM. Instead, their Mother and Father were murdered in a car crash. At the reading of the Will the siblings find out their parents were more than they appeared to be. Their father was the Guardian of a sacred object that killers were trying to find. The ancient artifact, the Eye of Ra is hidden somewhere in their home.

When Orhianna and Liam are transported with their house to the future, everything changes. Leaders from around the globe are chasing them and they end up in Sumac, a city more than one thousand years in the future. Sumac is a world of man/animals and futuristic technologies, but also a civilization deeply rooted in Egyptian and Mayan culture. With the help of their close friend THANE and their uncle BRENNICK, Liam and Orhianna learn of ancient history and mysteries that have yet to occur.

The Eye of Ra is changing them. As the siblings become more divided, Orhianna has to make a choice whether to save her new family, or stick with her brother Liam who has become violent and murderous. Only one of them can be the heir to the Guardian legacy.

And…”Dear Ms. Phillips:

It is with kind thanks that I respond to your submission to Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency. Please be assured that I have carefully considered your project. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the manuscript is right for me at this time. It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference, and you have such a personal and lovely query letter. You are obviously a high caliber writer.
My advice to you is to forget being the next JK Rowling, rather, become the next Tracey Phillips. That way, ten years from now, one of my interns can see a new query letter that says “My work is heavily influenced by Tracey Phillips.” Thank you for allowing me to read your work, to be honest, most levels of sci-fi are lost on me so I am probably not the best agent to represent this work.
But remember to strive, continue and most of all, finish.
Because we receive more than two hundred submissions per week, it is necessary to be extremely selective on a very subjective basis.  There are numerous excellent agents that might be the right fit for your manuscript. I wish you the best of luck.

Samhain Toast

by on Friday, October 31st, 2014

Welcome Guests on this Samhain, this All Hallows Eve,

The day of the Dead, or undead, how ever you want to see it.

This is the night of darkness, when things really do go bump.

On this night, the wind howls and dogs and creatures too.

The Dead rise from the moist (or frozen) earth covered with rot and worms

And spirits walk again, haunting our closets and the corners of our dark basements.

Tonight, Witches dance minuets with spirits and demons,

They will conjure the Goddess (or so she claims to be)

And hover over simmering cauldrons breathing in the spicy fumes of their magic potions.

Yet you, all of you… have chosen to be here tonight of all nights.

And a strange lot we are.

The invisible man, and Beethoven, risen from the dead.

Red riding hood and wolf Wolfson to name a few.

Come the morrow, if it may be seen,

We have Houses to build and Martial arts classes to teach.

We have horses to mount and piano recitals to perform.

Some even have long journeys to the farthest reaches of the world

If tomorrow comes.

So tonight, on the night of the walking dead,

Or call it what you wish, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, or simply Hallow’een,

Tonight, I toast you brave and bold souls; you children of the night.

So raise a glass and drink. Drink to yourselves and to life.

Stain your lips red with the nectar of the Gods.

But above all, turn your tails and dance the dance of joy.

For we are all Children of the Earth put here to play the music of life.


by on Saturday, October 25th, 2014

And now, I rest.

Spent the last week or so revamping, revising my YA novel Sumac and finished…yes finished yesterday. Surprising even myself, I liked it. And tomorrow, recital season starts. Perfect timing. With four recitals this fall over the next three weeks and a Halloween party in the middle of all that, I do have my  hands full. Labor of love.

And here I sit, blogging away, with nothing left to write except the summary and log line, which I am happy to procrastinate.

Sumac is the story of two siblings Liam and Orhianna Brightly. Less than a week after Liam graduates from high school their parents die suddenly in a car crash. Naturally they are devastated by the accident which they find out was actually murder. Orhianna, only fifteen becomes depressed. As the mystery unfolds, they learn that their dad was from the future and was a member of a family designated the Guardians of the Eye of Ra, a powerful and sacred object. At the reading of the Will, they are each given silver passports for time travel.

Liam is greatly upset by this news, feeling that his parents never trusted him enough to tell him the truth. Soon after finding this mysterious artifact, they are transported with their entire house to Saratan, a desert in the future.  Members of a Secret Society want the object…and want the siblings dead. A man who tries to help them in the desert is killed, turning their adventures into a deadly game. But when leaders see this silver pyramid Liam carries around, they take him and his sister to see  the Council at the Ah Ciliz, The Department for time management in the year 3033 . Here they find out how important this artifact is. The Eye of Ra has been missing since the time of the Pharaohs. Their family, the Guardians have been protecting it, but more than that, due to stellar alignments, it has become energetically charged again and the siblings are gaining powers by being in its presence.

The Eye of Ra amplifies their best or worst traits, giving Orhianna the ability to heal an injured soldier, and Liam the power to kill with a thought. The two experience their gifts in front of the council and narrowly escape the wrath of Rhisiarth, a villainous man who wants the Eye and wants the children dead.

Their good friend Thane, who has more than a passing fancy for Orhianna joins them. And an Uncle, their father’s brother Brennick takes the three to meet the rest of their clan who live in Sumac in the future. Here they learn even more about this artifact, the Eye of Ra and their family’s history.

Leaders from the past and present worlds are conspiring to take the powerful object from them as the siblings become more divided. Liam becomes extremely possessive of the Eye, where Orhianna just wants everyone to get along. Thane, is forced to take sides when Liam seriously injures a member of the family, and Orhianna heals him.

Assistance from the family is lost on Liam who has really gone off the deep end. When he kills their grandfather in a cold blooded act of control, Orhianna finds the power within her to send her brother ‘home’ to their house in Saratan. There, he meets the man who killed his parents, his own mother’s father, Senator Powell Kole. The Senator is a member of a Secret society, the Ahul Net and enlists Liam to help retrieve the Artifact and his sister Orhianna.

Orhianna’s becoming stronger in ways she never imagined and in the eyes of her family, she is a leader. In the final confrontation, she has to face her fears. Liam, whose destiny is unclear, joins the fight to gain control of the Eye of Ra. after a heated battle, he cuts his losses and goes back to 2014. When they finally find a hiding place for the Eye, Thane and Orhianna return to 2014 to find that WWIII has just begun.

Given the many sides of this story, I hope that readers find it interesting. I have left it a cliff hanger, because there will be two more books revolving around these siblings and their adventures in the past, present and future.



by on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

“No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, … and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire.”

Sometimes, having a sick day means taking time off of writing too…Nope. Not really. Not for the writer in me. So far I’ve written a new chapter in the YA fiction, and a post on one of my blogs…Now this post. None of it means a thing, just getting junk out of my head.

I’m close. Really close to finishing Sumac. I’m in a (almost) final editing stage, eliminating chapters that are unnecessary, adding new ones to propel the plot forward. The goal is to ‘git her done’ by the end of October. Then I’ll put some of it out there. a few of you may be asked to read it and provide valuable feedback. Then I’ll do another round of editing and send it out to the world to become another turned down manuscript. I may take it to New York next summer when I go to Thriller Fest.

All of this is speculation of course, because today I am PROCRASTINATING.

TOP TEN ways to procrastinate if you are a writer…

10)Clean bathrooms. Bathrooms, at least in my house, are always in need of cleaning.

9) Clean the kitchen. The same goes for this particular room.

8) Call your mom. She would love to hear all the valuable and productive ways you are spending  your time.

7) Weed pulling. Depending on the season, but even in WI this can be done 3 out of 4 seasons during the year.

6) Any random errands that need to be done?

5) Walk the dog. The dog actually loves to help in this capacity.

4)Reading. Anything works here, books not written by you, articles about writing…

3) Facebook. This also falls into the category of reading, but it’s more useless information that won’t help you get anywhere.

2) Twitter. I’m not a professional tweeter yet, but could see how this can suck up tons of valuable time.

1)Blogging. Although it seems like writing, it’s actually the best, most efficient use of procrastination time.

Angsty Artist

by on Friday, June 20th, 2014

An agent has asked to read my book!!! …the whole book! I got the email yesterday, she enjoyed the first 50 pages and wants to delve deeper! I jumped for joy:) I jumped in the living room, I screamed and hollered “Yes, yes, yes!!!” I jumped up and down in the parking lot of Menards, and down the isles, and called my friends and patted myself on the back. I was so excited! I made it past the first phase to the next level. I have worked hard for this moment, I’ve worked very hard! Though even as I jumped for joy, I realize that it, the book that is, could still be rejected. I am prepared for that. I think.

But at least I have made an impression on someone and she’s willing to read the whole thing. What ever feedback she has will be invaluable.

And yet…and yet I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering, “What will become of me.”

And “What have I done?”

I sent it to her this morning.

“What have I done.”

Mike and I discussed how this could be the next 50 Shades, my novel takes the concept to the next level (Yea, I noticed the parallel too, I like the game analogy a lot). But…

What have I done.

I realize that you haven’t read my book. You couldn’t possibly understand that I will want to remain anonymous. That I need to remain anonymous. I have a pen name, and nope…I won’t tell you that either. But getting an agent is prime! It could propel my career into the ozone. Or not. The whole thing is, it’s hard to say. I’ve done enough research on the industry to know that it is terribly hard to make a living as a writer. Even harder to be seen in a sea of millions of books. Only a select few ever make it to the top, to stardom, to become household words. Or get made into movies.

So why should I worry???

I don’t really understand why I have so much angst over this book. You saw the post on adrenaline? I’ve admitted I’m a junkie, and I’ll get it any way I can!

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve spent my whole life worrying about what other people  think…Oh yea, then I realize that I have. Seems like a ridiculous thing to be so concerned about. But isn’t that the sense of good and bad that we all have? The sense not to harm or get in someone elses’ way? I guess not everyone has those values, now that I think about it.

I could go into a very lengthy discussion about why I am this way, but it would bore you to tears. It bores me now. So I need to get to the point and move past this obstacle.

I don’t want to lose my job teaching piano, but in contrast, I would be happy to switch over to a writing career. I love teaching piano, (I had 5 new students yesterday) and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. But would love the opportunity to make a career writing! Dual personality me. The twins of Gemini are making themselves very prominent in my life right now. Sure, I’ve always been good at doing two things at once, and having two careers could be a perfect fit. Somehow I need to make it work.

Here’s a crazy thing. I finished book two of the dark trilogy and just as I have quit that and moved on to something else…Just as I’ve begun work on my YA fiction again for the next Writer’s Conference, (something that I can feel good about and tell everyone that I’m writing) this agent has thrown me back into the world of Elements. And given a ray of hope that it could make it to publication. Or was it a ray of horror?

What have I done. It is my mind on display.

Angsty artist.

Half a Hundred

by on Friday, June 6th, 2014

50…Nope, still can’t say it. Half a hundred is better. It’s only half of the whole. A fraction. Isn’t fifty the new thirty? In any case, I don’t feel any older than that! Healthy and happy, no complaints! Someday I’ll reach a hundred, and that will be something.

All in all I had a great day. It started out in a pout…I hate birthdays. and then I realized it was really just another day. These things come and go. Ended up at Flemings having appetizers and drinks with my daughter and her boy friend and (last but definitely not least) my wonderful man. A good time.

I survived. I had been dreading the day for months…and months…and years…and years. When it finally came, there was nothing to it. I didn’t get hit by a truck or low flying plane. I didn’t suddenly age beyond repair…like in that movie the Lost Horizon..I think that’s what it was called. About a place where no one aged. When the woman traveled out of the mountains to be with her beloved, she became her true, unpreserved age…826 and died on the spot. That movie always terrified me!!!

That’s what I thought turning fifty would be like. Time to shrivel up and die. It didn’t happen though. Not at all. Amazing.

Soon I’ll post pic’s of me new beautiful tattoo :)


Rabbit Hole

by on Friday, February 7th, 2014

I’ve known for a long time that I’m an adrenaline junky. I love the feel of fear. Just a little bit, enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Or, sometimes a lot. I like living with it. I like the feel of the beating of my heart. My mind has been a place full of fantasy lately, especially within the context of the second book I’m writing. It’s a thriller all right, and having that little bit of edge is like having a boat motor always running, always ready for someone to pull up anchor and take off. A lot like drinking too much coffee.

I don’t really like scary movies, you know the type where a crazed maniac (aka dead thing) is chasing people with a hatchet or chain saw. To me that’s very unrealistic. I’m not into Zombies either. Really, those types of movies are not very scary, they’re humorous. Seriously, none of the characters running from the ‘thing’ ever make the right choices, even more amusing that they all usually die except for the dumb blond. (Not to stereotype or anything.)

Some movies accomplish real fear with out being labeled as such. They give you that edgy feeling that you think something bad will happen to the characters you love. I think we all must have great compassion to be able to feel for characters and want the best outcome for them.The most recent that comes to mind is the movie World War Z. I know, I said I’m not into Zombies, but it was really good!  Others that come to mind are War of the Worlds, and Signs. Did you know that in the movie Signs, they never actually show the creature or the ships they come in. The only time it is shown is through a mirror in the living room near the end. It’s perfectly freaky though since everything up till then has gotten your imagination to go crazy.

That’s the kind of anxiety I’m talking about. That’s the feeling…in anticipation of things to come.  Unknown things. Bad things.

So I’ve gotten a bit addicted to that feeling, and love the writing process because of it. I’m creating worlds that are full of scary evil people and all day long I wonder how my main character is going to handle it. My Main is me. I know how she thinks and what she is feeling, not only because the story is mostly from her POV, but because she reacts the same way I would.

What scares me the most is having my power taken from me.  And that’s what the trilogy is all about. Power play. Ultimately, my Main will lose her sense of who she is and become what someone else wants her to be. I think it will be a good story because its something that scares me! Wouldn’t that kind of control scare you? Think about it.

And yet…I’ve decided to go down that rabbit hole. I love it. I can’t wait to get up every morning and write. I need to know what’s going to happen to her next. It’s very addicting. Dark. Scary. I’m taking the plunge, and down the rabbit hole I go.