Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Book Review: Maggie Vaults Over the Moon

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon arrived in my mailbox a little more than a week ago and I flipped it open, thinking I'd check out the first chapter or two and then put it on my to-read stack to be reviewed later. A chapter or two wasn't enough, however, I fell right into the story and it became my go-to book this week even though I had very little time for reading.

Right from the start, I was impressed by the setting of this story. Maggie is from a rural Kansas farm family and, except for the fact that she's from the other side of Wichita, much of the setting for this story could have been my own. I never got to drive a truck at harvest time, but I rode along enough when I was a kid that I could imagine myself bump-bumping along in the passenger seat right beside her. If the kittens on the way to the barn and the child's paradise of a hayloft well stocked hadn't already reeled me in, Maggie showing sheep at the 4-H fair entirely won me over. I was also the girl with lambs in 4-H and I was pleased that the author got every detail correct. 

The book opens with a tragedy that also felt immensely and deeply real. I shed a few tears and read quickly, eager to learn how Maggie would cope. The cover and the title were a clue, of course, but it became important to learn how she got there. I even spent an afternoon watching pole vaulters on YouTube because I had no previous experience with the sport and I wanted to be able to more thoroughly visualize Maggie's progress. 

Though the story was well-grounded in a Kansas setting, it had little sparks of the mystical, as well. I was inspired and would recommend this book to all of my young reading friends. It might be categorized as Young Adult Sports Fiction, but it is a story that I think readers of all ages will appreciate.

Maggie Vaults Over the Moon on Amazon

Author's Website

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Book Review: The Grave Winner

The Grave Winner

The Grave Winner, by Lindsey R. Loucks

Almost as much as finding a new book to read, I love meeting other authors. When I went to Dodge City for my book's release party, my niece mentioned that the librarian at her school was also publishing a first book. Yay for new Kansas authors! I didn't get much chance to visit with Lindsey, but I did download her book as soon as I returned home.

The Grave Winner is a new genre for me and I very much enjoyed the introduction. Categorized as a young adult paranormal fantasy romance, I honestly wasn't sure what I was getting into. I instantly recognized and felt at home in Krapper, Kansas, however, and although the story opened at the graveside of the protagonist's mother (a factor that might have turned me away not so long ago), I quickly decided that Leigh was a girl with spunk and spirit that I was going to like. I appreciated her friend, Jo, as well.

I enjoyed learning about the parameters of Lindsey's paranormal world and the way the characters felt very real (their behavior "typical" of teenagers) within the bounds of this alternate reality. The dead girl next door has risen to walk again, for instance, but beyond her horrible stench and the fact that she turns the grass black where she walks, there doesn't seem to be a lot of concern. She's not a flesh-eating ghoul or anything. She's just a bit sad, perhaps. The people in the book question why she has risen from the dead, but aren't necessarily horrified by it.

The romance was sweet. I enjoyed both potential love interests and couldn't decide which I was rooting for in the end. There were a few characters who became pivotal to the storyline that I wished I could have learned a little more about before all the action got going, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

I look forward to following Lindsey's writing career. Be sure to check out her blog for news and links to a few of her short stories.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Letter from a Writing Friend

I received this by mail this week. It is in response to my talk at the Kansas Authors Club, District 4 meeting I attended in Manhattan.

I enjoyed your book as much as Bill said I would. I would have read it in one setting if my eyes would have held on; had to sleep a few hours. Your book held my interest like none have done for a while. It is hard to find a good book.


Tracy, your clever art of writing left no page unturned! You must have heard the Southwest Writing Coaches that I drove to hear when I was a writing my first book. That weekend, my take home info was: Write each page so the reader will want to turn the page. Your art covered all facets of life here in Kansas.

The letter was from Dorothy Masters whom I met as a member of Kansas Authors Club. She is one of the friends I look forward to meeting yearly in October when Kansas authors gather. While we lived in Topeka, I was able to visit with Dorothy more frequently.

Dorothy has published two books of personal family stories. I've enjoyed them very much. Though she doesn't get out and about as much as she used to, she continues to compile her memories and "life lessons" for her family. What a treasure she has created for future generations. I wish more people would do so. Family stories are the most valuable of all, I think.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sermons and Tigers and Cows -- oh my!

There was a very nice piece by Regina Murphy in the Emporia Gazette today about the Author Extravaganza taking place at Town Crier Bookstore, from 11am - 1pm tomorrow, Saturday, June 15.

Emporian Tracy Million Simmons will be present to sign copies of her first book: “Tiger Hunting.” Set in Dodge City, the story of Jeni’s post-graduate life crisis is told with candor, wit and charm. With an actual tiger on the loose from a circus accident, old boyfriends, and changed high school friends, the journey of Jeni’s self-examination as she starts pulling her life back together is a riveting and entertaining read. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Weekend Tours

I managed two speaking engagements this weekend -- one in Lawrence and one in Manhattan. When I moved to Emporia, I don't think I realized just how handy the location made traveling about Kansas. I tend to still judge road trips by their distance from Dodge City. I never would have survived Lawrence and home again, then Manhattan and home again in less than two days from all the way out there in western Kansas. I did manage it from Emporia, however, and was home in time for supper with plenty of time left to watch the sunset.

I spoke at the Kansas Authors Club, District 2 meeting in Lawrence. This group meets monthly on the  2nd Saturday of each month. Click here for a look at the D2 meeting schedule.

Tracy Million Simmons with Kansas Authors Club, D2 President, Gordon Kessler.
On Sunday I spoke at the Kansas Authors Club, District 4 meeting in Manhattan. This group meets quarterly and their schedule can be found here

Kansas Authors Club encourages and supports meeting groups across the state of Kansas. View the Kansas Authors Club calendar for details. If you don't see a group meeting in your area, feel free to start one and share details of your meetings for our newsletter, website, and Facebook page.

Author Interview: Vicki Julian

Vicki Julian is a fellow member of the Kansas Authors Club. I have enjoyed getting to know her through our work together on the state board and recently had the pleasure of reading Vicki's newest book, Simple Things to Make This World a Better Place.

Simple Things to Make this World a Better Place is just that. There’s nothing particularly hard about spreading positive energy. Yet, we could all use a few reminders, now and then, that a simple change in the way we think, behave or respond to a person or situation can go a long way toward making a difference, even if just for one person at a time. Why were you the person to write such a book? What inspired you to collect these tidbits and put them in book form?

You are correct when you say it isn’t difficult to spread positive energy. In fact, one point of the book is that it doesn’t take a large sum of money, countless hours of volunteering or great effort to make a positive difference in this world. I was inspired to write this book while sitting in church and listening to the pastor read Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” It immediately evoked action from me so I feel both blessed and chosen to have written this book. I truly loved writing it although it took me two years to do so. It was written, so not just I could make a difference, but so that everyone could.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Author Interview: Max Yoho

Max Yoho is one of my friends from the Kansas Authors Club. I have been hooked on Max's stories since first reading The Revival. I enjoy giving his books as gifts as they are laugh-out-loud entertainment. Max recently agreed to answer a few questions about his career as an author.

 I understand that you came to writing as something of a second career after retiring from nearly four decades of work as a machinist. As a reader, however, I have to believe that you’ve practiced the art of storytelling for many years. Did you always imagine a book in your future?

It never crossed my mind to become a writer until shortly before my retirement. I never imagined a book in my future, and it only came about when a short story I was writing became too long to be a “short” story. It was based on a real event, in which I had only a peripheral part. I only learned the full story from my grandfather years later. It was a very serious story about a revival meeting, but I don't do "serious" well. My characters kept making me laugh, so I told them, "Go ahead. You write the damn story," and they did. This story turned into my first novel, The Revival. It may be the closest I've written to what my real life was like, growing up in small-town Colony, KS.

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