Archive for the ‘Writing Goals’ Category

In Time (revised)

by on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

In Time

The concrete slabs were slid into place. Certain finality hit home for Orhianna. She leaned on her brother Liam for support. The lids to their parents’ sarcophagi were closed. Cold concrete encased them.
“In the midst of life, we be in death.” A priestess spoke to the huddled family.
Across from the two stone boxes, uncle Brennick stared at them. His amber eyes were wild. Liam thought of anyone, he would know how his parents were killed.
“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes…” The priestess continued reading, “And dust to dust.”
Brennick walked away from the mourners, ducking behind a cluster of Spanish moss.
How dare he, Liam thought. He let go of Orhianna. “Brennick, wait.” He jogged to close the distance. “You know how they were killed, don’t you?”
Taking one last glance at his approaching nephew, Brennick slipped behind a tree.
Liam caught up. He saw a flash of light. Nearby tree branches lit up. Then Brennick was gone.
Facing the caskets and his sister, Liam felt confused.
Orhianna approached, “Take this passport to Sumac.” She handed him a silver card.
Sliding another like it into a device, she said, “I’ll meet you there.” And disappeared.

Which story grabs you?

In Time

by on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

This story is only 200 words-including the title!

In Time

The concrete slabs were slid into place, and certain finality hit home for Orhianna. She leaned on her brother Liam for support. The lids to their parents’ sarcophagi were closed. Cold concrete encased them. Tears would not stop.
“In the midst of life, we be in death.” A priestess spoke to the huddled family.
Across from the two stone boxes, uncle Brennick stared at them. His amber eyes were wild. Liam thought if anyone knew how his parents were killed, it would be him.
“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes…” The priestess continued reading the prayer, “And dust to dust.”
Brennick walked away from the mourners.
How dare he, Liam thought. Liam wanted to go after him but remained supporting his sobbing sister, who spoke the prayer loudest. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
Brennick ducked behind a cluster of Spanish moss.
Liam let go of Orhianna. “Brennick, wait.” He jogged to close the distance. “Tell me how they were killed.”
Taking one last glance at his approaching nephew, Brennick slipped behind a tree.
Liam caught up. He saw a flash of light. Nearby tree branches lit up. Then Brennick was gone.


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.

If I was a travel writer…

by on Monday, July 28th, 2014

If I was a travel writer, I would have lots to tell you about Indiana today. After the conference last weekend, I’ve been on my own and bombing around Indiana.

Yesterday I spent the morning at the Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie Indiana. I museum of sorts, it is a tribute to the Ball family legacy. Ball, as you know first started as a glass company over one hundred years ago. The Minnetrista Center is located near the homes of the original 5 brothers. Three of those homes are open on weekdays for tours, one is under renovation and the 5th has been sold to a glass company that now occupies the building.

The museum itself has a room for children to explore, a room full of paintings and a room of touring art works, this weekend it was glass works. (Glass seemed to be the theme for the day.) The glass artwork in particular was very interesting, though there were few artists represented (about 12) and then only one work from each artist was on display. Honestly, I found it to be a major disappointment as far as representing any ‘legacy’ and a major waste of unused space. Yes that’s my honest opinion. Honestly.

What is the point of the center if not to represent the history and the families who have founded so much? Mini dioramas were placed along the walls along with a small collection of china, a few antique tea sets, and some odds and ends photos. Representation could hardly be the point.  Along with Ball jars, the company has divided into an aerospace division, and a bottling company now called Jarden. Not to mention the University which has been growing leaps and bounds due primarily to donations from the Ball family heirs.

But I digress…If you are interested in their history, go on line. You’ll find more stuff to look at there.

Next on my agenda has been Culver Indiana. A summer vacation place that my family has traveled to many times in the past, a small town in central Indiana that is famous only for its Academy, Culver Academy, and it’s nice sized lake, Lake Maxinkuckee. Funny, I’m not sure of the spelling. Though I’ve spent dozens of summers here water skiing, inner tubing as a child and later with my own children, I haven’t spent that much time in town. I spent summers at sailing camp at the academy, and so have both my children, in Horse back riding and Hockey respectively, though we never ate out or had to stay in a local hotel.

And so my adventure begins. I arrived yesterday to the Inn at the Lake. A sweet bed and breakfast near the beach downtown and close to restaurants and coffee shops. It is a recently remodeled motel with only 12 rooms, each a different theme I am told, and cozy and super clean. Breakfast was a stunning array of eggs, bacon, fruit and berries, coffee flavors to choose from and other baked delights. The owner was friendly and conversational.

Last night I went to a brew pub…Who knew there was such a thing in this small town? Food was fabulous. If I was a foodie writer, I’d tell you about the juicy hamburger smothered in goat cheese and herbs, topped with fried Guacamole. The fries were amazingly thick and crispy. The beer was delicious and refreshing. I had a  light amber Menage a trois that paired well to wash down the meal. I would have left happy and gone back to my hotel with a happy food coma if I hadn’t spoiled it by backing into the bartender’s car…bad enough that I did damage to both our cars. Ouch. And then it became one expensive meal.

Today I sit happily sipping my mint tea in front of a window (it happens to be in the 60’s outside though it is July) at a wonderful little coffee shop. I had a breakfast burrito for lunch and I plan on going back for some delicious baked something or other.

So if you are looking for a nice quiet vacation, lake and small town included, I highly recommend Culver.


Road trip, to my future life.

by on Friday, July 25th, 2014

Yet another Writer’s Conference weekend. Today I’m at Ball State Univ. at the Writer’s Workshop. It seems funny to me that I have come all this way, all the way back to my roots for new beginnings. Let me explain.

Ball State is not my Alma Mater (help me spell this!), and this isn’t where I grew up. Muncie is where my family is from. It’s where my gene pool began to make history with containers for eggs and glass jars for canning.  They were a creative bunch of kids who had ideas to change the world. Back then, the world needed changing too.

Creativity runs in my family, like brown eyes and music also run through us.  It is what we do. We draw and paint. We make things new. We design and we play instruments. And, we write.

My grandmother wrote three books, an autobiography, a book called The Love of Music and a bio about my grandfather. My mom wrote a couple little books about her life and things she went through. And my aunt is a poet.

For the past two weeks I’ve been working on a project for my grandmother’s 96th birthday. I’ve renewed an old scrapbook of hers and reprinted pictures. In the process, I got to know her as a young woman in her college days. It was sweet to see the cards from numerous suitors, and all the playbills from shows she saw in New York at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway. It made me feel more connected to her as a person and helped me get to know her better, dismissing the overbearing critical teacher that I remember. I got a chance to see what her dreams were, and pictures of her as a young creative woman with hopes and dreams.

Back to my roots. I traveled here alone for some much needed away time and from here I go to Culver for a day or two alone there then a reunion with my family. I get days of writing and time for me (for a change), and re-connection with the past. This is a perfect place for me to be. I hope to visit some of the family homes on Sunday and see the house my Grandmother grew up in. It’s a museum now and inspiration for many people. For me it is my heritage, connecting the past to the future.


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.

Social Skills Lacking: Formal Apology to Mr. Bransford

by on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I am showing signs of ADHD. Or at my advancing age, probably Alzheimer’s. Well, probably not. This weekend I was at a writer’s conference here in Madison. It was Fantastic! The classes and information, the one on one sessions with industry professionals.  My head was spinning with information by the end of the first day…twirling by the end of the second and I was dizzy, holding on to solid objects by the end of the third. I guess I can cut myself a little slack for the story I’m about to tell you.

For the past two days I’ve been processing the information, dreaming about it and rewriting parts of my book in my head. And for some reason, one particular exchange keeps coming back to me. And I want to apologize formally to the poor victim of my advancing forgetfulness. Blame it on the weekend. Blame it on ‘brain too full to operate optimally’.

Formal Apology here: I am sorry, Nathan Bransford.

On the afternoon of the second day, I walked into the book sellers room seeking more…something. Insight, beautiful musings from fellow writers, inspiration. My head was packed with ideas and I had just come from lunch with another local writer, and having connected with her, I was feeling pretty high on myself. I was probably talking to myself. In fact, I can’t remember if I was talking on the phone at the time, or texting with my husband, or just conversing in my mind as I sometimes do…with myself.

So I entered this room, and right front and center, was this individual, a speaker from the conference, whose writings regarding the publishing world, and about writing in general, I have been following since last year at this same conference where he was also a speaker and highly touted individual whose progressive ideas were wowing the local community. That was a very long sentence.

As I was saying, he was front and center standing behind a tiny table where his books (fresh off the press) were stacked. How to write a Novel. He was rearranging them, restacking them. For some reason, as if we had been talking all along, or as if he had any idea who in the hell I was, I walked up and said to him, “Oh. Rearranging your piles, not a good sign.” There must have been some hidden (in fact so well hidden that the Hubble telescope couldn’t find it) irony there that he would miraculously see. I picked up his book and began to look it over. [This is where I should have asked how his stay in Madison had been.] Or [I could have told him that I was a big fan of his blog.] Revisionist history also prompts me to say, [Nathan, I really enjoyed your speech yesterday morning, my name is Tracey.] But no. The next thing I remembered saying was, “So, you’ve got a book on writing that you’re selling to writers.”

Could I dig myself a little grave now?

The poor Mr. Bransford did not answer,  perhaps too stupefied by my inappropriateness.  I looked over the book and did in fact purchase it, for he is much more knowledgable than I on the subject. And almost forgot to have him sign it. He probably thought I didn’t want it signed.  I behaved so badly.

Well, just in case Nathan Bransford ever reads this blog I want him to know that I sincerely apologize for my inability to communicate at that particular moment. You are highly reguarded by me, even if I can’t spell the word. I took to heart your advice at the beginning of the conference, and especially loved number nine, “Be thankful for what you have.” It reminded me what an adult student said to me a few months ago, “Tracey, you are living the dream.” At the time I was surprised by his statement, and doubted the veracity. But I know it to be true now.

So thank you, Mr. Bransford, from the stupid woman at the writer’s conference. I hope I am better at putting words together on a page than I appeared to be in social situations. I am loving your book and referencing it, it helps to keep me sane.

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.


Ongoing Saga of the Lost Writing Career

by on Monday, June 24th, 2013

Happy Birthday Karissa Knight! You are one year old today!

It has been difficult to keep up. Though I’ve heard nothing from the other two agents I’ve submitted my work to, I’ve been so  busy with teaching this month that I’ve had very little time to sit and write. I’ve taken 6 new students while a few are still fazing out, quitting lessons, so my workload has been enormous. Not to mention the fact that no one is on vacation yet.  I did complete my latest draft of Elements, and I feel it is the very best yet. Still, I haven’t been able to find anyone to read it. I think my friend, another aspiring writer and I will begin partnering up. Meaning, I’ll read her’s and she’ll read mine, beginning later this summer, if she has time. She still has one child at home, in high school…she’s standing at the doorway to freedom.

So I’ve begun working on Elements of Submission. With the limited amount of time I have in the mornings now, I’ve found it difficult to sit down for any length of time and be creative. Hense the lack of entries in this journal as well. The book will start out with a bang though, that’s something I’ve figured out from my first year of writing. The other thing I’ve figured out is, of the 40 pages I wrote of Submission last winter, 80% was crap. I believe I’ve come a long way in improving my technique and style, for the better, hopefully. Proceeding slowly. Cautiously.

The next step will be submitting to 4 more agents. Finding the time for researching who and contacting them will be another issue…for July. It’s been a year. Book two is coming.