by on 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 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 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 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 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.

Starting Fresh

by on August 4th, 2014

Nearing the end.  Today is the last day of a very long vacation. Ten days away from my Mikey and my puppy. Ten days away from my home and my routine. Ten days away from what I love. I got pretty homesick after only 5 days. I’ve never been away by myself for that amount of time and though I planned the trip to a writer’s conference, it got piggy backed with a family vacation, and ended up being a long time away from home for me.

This particular  journey started with a Writer’s Conference. A three day seminar on the business and technique of writing. Those Conferences are intensive, beginning early, ending late with back to back classes all day long. When it’s over it takes me days to process the information, and I’m usually mentally exhausted by the time it’s over. Only one day to soak it in this time…

I spent a day by myself afterward, processing, preparing, then checked into a wonderful little bed and breakfast and began writing again. Able to put in a good chunk of time with my book, I worked on rewrites and added a lot of new content.  The next day I met up with my family for a week stay at a vacation home on a lake in Indiana. My mom and Grandmother, aunt and cousin were there and the youngest member of the family, Adam who is fourteen. My other cousin and his partner came a day later.  It was a quiet, though unrestful vacation. The bed I was assigned pretty well sucked. It was too hard, and too short. And for some reason, I relegated myself to two feet of the mattress near the edge because I knew Mike would be filling the other half at the end of the week. Anticipation.

The time spent with family was fun and fulfilling, we laughed, we grumped, we got angry and then forgave. Normal family dynamics in my little clan. I sometimes wonder that because we are a small group, only 17  including significant others,  that  the dynamics are that much stronger.

We collectively dealt with Plumbing Failure, in capital letters because the professionals took 24 hours to repair and unplug the damage. Having to walk two doors down to a neighbor’s house to use the commode was difficult fot the old and injured members. We dealt with everyone’s differing perception of the temperature, cold weather in July and loosing the plumbing again.

My mom and her sister are good at finding chores that need to be done, and one cousin is very good at avoiding them. The youngest and the oldest are along for the ride, meaning they aren’t expected o do any work, which leaves me, and one cousin and his girlfriend to do the majority.

I never really mind, since I’d rather be busy doing something that sitting around. That’s just the way I roll. But a week of cooking and cleaning for ten-12  people gets tiring. I am On, ( with a capital O) all day from the moment they get out of bed. (On) my best behavior, (On) for doing favors, (On) for taking care of business. Imagine being the host of a week long party. That’s me.

The mental demands of trying to make sure everyone is happy, wore me out near the end, though I wouldn’t do it any differently. I want to help out. I am a pleaser, on the ‘How Do You Relate to People’ spectrum. I found myself trying to appease them as a group…making sure they were fed and planning activities, and then individually… by giving back rubs when needed, and playing games with the youngest.

I got  in my writing time though. I set my alarm every day, just like at home to get  in a few hours of writing every morning. And at the beginning of the week I had quiet opportunities to practice Budo and move my body. All in all it was a relaxing time, no work and no other commitments. It was good.

Mike, my daughter and her boyfriend joined us for the final weekend, my son was too busy for vacation. (busy doing what, I don’t know) But as great as it was having my clan there, it divided my loyalties, spreading me thinner. On the last day I cooked, cleaned, ran errands, went shopping, went swimming, went shopping again and cooked dinner for 12 people. That night I had business to complete with five members of the group, and a backrub for my grandmother. Then…….then, I was spent. I did sleep that night, go figure.

And when we got home, Mmmm. Home felt so good. Today I can go back to work feeling like I do this because I enjoy it. I can be with my students and be refreshed, not grumpy and tired of the same old routine. Today, my routine will be a refreshing change of pace.

Today, I start over.


If I was a travel writer…

by on 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 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 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 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 :)