Friday, September 21, 2012

I Kill Me: Tales of A Jilted Hypochondriac by Tracy H. Tucker : Interview & Excerpt

 


 
 
Christine Bacon has a fatal attraction. To all things fatal. A veteran hypochondriac, her near-death experiences are exacerbated when her husband proposes they have a threesome with Eleanor, his busty British massage therapist, to “shake things up.” Christine reluctantly agrees (although she is more wholesome than threesome), never expecting just how much she'd be rattled. As her marriage to Richard, a/k/a “Dick,” falls apart, so, too, does Christine, whose fear of her own demise causes her to research every freckle, blemish, cough, bump, lump, tingle and hiccup. She isn't a doctor, but she plays one on the internet.

There is solace for Christine: in raising daughters Lily and Carli, leaning on her friends, and wearing out the shower massager. In order to heal, she struggles to become her own person and to view her symptoms (and ex-husband) as less malignant, while searching for that special someone who will love her—despite her grave condition.
 
*I KILL ME is intended for an adult audience*
 
 
 Read this Brand New 5 Star Review
 

-- Becky Sherriff, Kindle Book Review

 
 
 
*****Special Author's Note*****
While main character Christine provides laughs for readers as she obsesses over her numerous maladies, the diseases she imagines are real for many people. From this point forward, I am donating a minimum of 25% of my book royalties to a health organization each month, using the National Health Information Center’s calendar as a guideline. All organizations will come from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Service’s website.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and 25% of this month’s royalties will go to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition in Dallas, Texas. Since October highlights breast cancer, I will donate 50% of my book royalties to the Susan D. Komen Race For The Cure, as I have had family members diagnosed with breast cancer. My beloved grandmother, Rose Abelli Dooling, died of the disease, so it is in her memory that I make this donation.


 

 

From Chapter 11: Headaches

Christine's parents come to visit the weekend after she is officially divorced.

 
            It began above my right eye, just about the time my parents walked in the door. A stabbing pain, pinging at me. Brain tumor. I braced myself.   
My mother waved her meaty arms, bracelets clanging together, and started to cry. “Oh, Christine,” she said. “You don’t know how good it feels to be here to help you!”
Piiing. My voice sounded muffled with my head squashed against her chest. “Thanks for coming, Mom.”
“Hello, Chris,” my father said, clearing his throat. I leaned in for a quick hug, respecting his discomfort. There was one time in my childhood where I remember him really holding me. I’d been having trouble sleeping (and therefore, so was he). I had snuck into his room and stood beside his bed. I'd said his name very lightly, fearful he’d wake up, yet hoping desperately he would (did I mention I was a junior in high school?). After my third visit, he finally dragged himself out of bed and came into my room. “Chris,” he said, his voice ragged with fatigue. “Would you please just go to sleep?”
       “Dad,” I said, starting to cry. “I’m trying.”
Without another word, he sat down on the bed and took me in his arms. Years later, I could still remember the cottony feel of his white Hanes t-shirt against my cheek and the faint, not unpleasant scent of perspiration. I could still recall the essence of my Dad: comfortably rumpled. Safe. There. We sat like that for a long time. And I slept.
Dad’s face relaxed and brightened as Lily and Carli barreled into the room. “Well, look at these two! All grown up!”
“A little too grown up, I think,” said my mother, frowning. “What is that you’re wearing, Lily?”
“It’s a cami, Mimi.”
“A what?”
“A cami. Camisole.”
My mother looked hard at me. “They’re wearing lacy underwear?”
Lily giggled. “Everybody is.”
“Lil,” I said, “why don’t you put Mimi and Poppa’s suitcases in the guest room?”
My father waved a hand at her. “Don’t you bother with that, honey. Your grandfather’s old, but he’s not that old.”
Oh, good. I’d insulted him, and it hadn’t even been five minutes.
“Christine, how are you enjoying Real Simple? ” Mom looked at me almost suspiciously.
Ping. Lily stole a sideways glance at me. She knew that the magazines, which I’d been receiving for the past four months, were still wrapped in plastic. I kept them in the bottom drawer of the computer desk. My life was too complicated to take the time to read about how to make my life simple.
I smiled at Lily, and then at my mother. “It’s a great concept.” At least that was sincere. My mother hmphed at me and followed my father into the guest room, her navy slacks swishing, heels clacking importantly against the floor. I always felt decidedly frumpy in her presence, my sweats and t-shirt contrasting with her smart Coldwater Creek pantsuits. As assertive and commanding as she could be, she was a paradox. In my mother’s eyes, every activity could lead to death. If I was invited to a friend’s camp, the boat ride would result in drowning. Driving at dusk meant death, because this was the time of day when moose lumbered across the road and caused fatal car accidents. Going sledding? You’d hit a tree. Ferris wheels were dangerous, since the orange jumpsuits who put them together were either past, present or future convicts who were too drunk or too high to notice the leftover screws on the ground after they put the ride together.
Pimples, too, were fraught with danger. Squeezing them, especially in what my mother labeled the “area of death” (the border around your nose), might cause the infection to travel into the bloodstream and inevitably to your brain. I distinctly remembered being in the throes of puberty, standing in front of the mirror and finding a hideous-looking zit near my nose. My heart hammering, I popped it—and waited to die.
                And now the pinging in my temple. I’d never had such a bad headache. Relentless, and aspirin hadn’t helped. My parents took over dinner preparations, a welcome reprieve for me. Although it was early spring, Dad cooked turkey burgers outside, grousing about the condition of the grill. Lily flitted back and forth between kitchen and back deck, fetching a spatula and spices, cooking spray and slices of cheese, with Winston at her heels. Carli set the table, folding napkins into triangles and placing handmade namecards in front of each person’s glass. Mimi had brought a package of colored tissue paper and pipe cleaners, and showed Carli how to create ruffly, three-layered flowers. I felt a pang of guilt (and another ping in my temple) for not doing more crafty things with my daughters. I was sure that idea had come fresh from the pages of Real Simple.
“Have another burger, Christine,” my mother urged. “You’re looking thin. Isn’t she looking thin, Bill?”
My head pinged again. I would try caffeine. I went to heat up a cup of water for tea.
“Don’t stand in front of the microwave,” my mother warned. “You’ll get cancer.”
When I returned to the table, Carli had a question for me. “Mumma,” she asked, making the sign of the cross, “what does this mean? Kristen says she does it in church.”
My mother stopped chewing, her fork halfway between her mouth and the plate.
“It’s the sign of the cross,” I said, shifting in my chair. Ping. Ping-ping. I hadn’t given my children what you’d call a real strong religious upbringing, and my mother was always quick to point this out. “Christians make that sign.”
“What are Christians?” asked Carli, wrinkling her nose.
“Oh my Lord,” my mother murmured.
”People who believe in Christ,” I said, a little too sharply. I hoped that would be the end of it.
“Who’s Christ?” Carli wanted to know.
Jesus Christ, she doesn’t know who Jesus Christ is. My mother reached for my father’s arm and made a low moan. I knew that inside, she was screaming.
A grin spread slowly across Lily’s face. “Jesus Christ, Carli? That ring any bells?”
“I know JESUS,” Carli retorted. “I just didn’t know he had a last name.”
         Lily was enjoying herself. “Do you know who the Pope is?”
Carli pouted.
“He’s like the head of the Catholic religion,” Lily continued. “He lives in the Vicodin.”
“VATICAN,” I corrected loudly.
My father put his hand up in protest, defending Lily. “Pope John Paul probably did live in the Vicodin, at the very end.”
“This needs to STOP,” my mother wailed. “Christine, I would be more than happy to look into some area churches and see what they have for Sunday School programs. These children—”
“I know,” I said. “I should be taking them to church.” Ping-ping-pingpingpingping... My God, this headache was really starting to scare me. It felt as though I had a woodpecker behind my eye. What if it was a tumor, pressing on my optic nerve? Or an aneurysm. I hadn’t thought of that. That was even more probable than a tumor. An aneurysm just waiting to burst and kill me, right there in front of my parents and my children. I fought the urge to make the sign of the cross.
“I have to go.” I stood and picked up my plate. “Thank you for dinner. I’m supposed to meet Hank and Stella in a few minutes.”
My mother was wearing her classic we’re not done talking about this face. “Before you go, Christine, your father and I have some exciting news to share with the three of you.” She beamed. “We’ve sold our house and are moving to be here with you.”
Ping-ping-PINGPINGPINGPINGPINGPINGPINGPINGPING...
“This way,” my mother continued, “we can be here to help you and the girls out in any way we can. What was it that Hillary Rodham Clinton always said? It takes a village. That’s the beauty of us being retired!”
Lily smiled broadly and Carli jumped up, squealing, to hug her grandmother. I grinned weakly at my father as I stood up. I would not deal with this right now. I would meet my friends, and then I would return home to my pagan children. I would crawl into bed, bunch up the pillows around me and sleep in the middle, my arm draped over Winston and my head pressed against Beanie. If it was a good night, I would cry for only ten minutes. Like it or not, this was my life. Real. But not simple.
 


Welcome Tracy!  Thanks for dropping by today.  I'm thrilled to get this opportunity to chat and find out a little about you.  How did you start your writing career? 


            As a reader. I read from a very early age, and I remember going to the public library every two weeks and coming out with stacks of books about horses. My mother would always try to sneak in a biography about Amelia Earhart, but my infatuation was hopelessly equine. Not surprisingly, my first stories heavily featured horses and sometimes other animals. The first story I ever wrote was “The Talking Cat,” about a boy and his very witty feline. I liked that my writing could make people laugh, even if that person was ten-year-old me. I also “borrowed” from Mary O'Hara, author of My Friend Flicka by using her plot and characters, and I felt a special kinship with the main character of Harriet the Spy. I kept a notebook of observations of people like Harriet did, jotting down gems such as, That little boy on the playground looks sad. I wonder why. That woman in the checkout line is fat. I wonder why. I remember sitting in my room on my beanbag chair, filling up spiral notebooks with stories. In high school, I sold a poem to Seventeen magazine, and the $15 I received for it felt like a million. I was on the original staff of our student newspaper and had my own innocent very
"vanilla" column called “Tracy's Corner.” I've added a few flavors since then.
           

How do you describe your writing style?/Plotter or Pantser? Why?

          I'm a Plotter who secretly wishes she was a Pantser, because a Pantser sounds way cooler. I have to think of the storyline a long time before I write it, sometimes planning it out in my head in the early morning while I'm cleaning my horses' stalls, or talking to my husband about it while we're at a restaurant or going someplace in the car. I jot down notes on whatever writing material I can find at the time—a napkin, a scrap from a bag of shavings in the barn—and then compile these notes into one document on my laptop. I like to have a basic outline before I write, often knowing at the very beginning what my last line will be. I've found my writing style has changed over time –when I was younger, I never used to outline my pieces of writing; they would just flow from me and I would follow the characters' leads. I would love to recapture that process, because it seemed so much easier back then!

 

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

          There are two “hardest parts” for me. One is figuring out my niche as a writer. I have written a middle grade novel about a boy who is sick of being average and overlooked, a picture book manuscript about pigeons, a contemporary women's fiction novel about a divorced hypochondriac, and a dark, suspenseful novel about a high school student infatuated with his teacher. I think I'll end up in either women's fiction or YA.

            The second is finding time to write when I am busy marketing my first book, teaching middle school, and taking care of my two horses, pony, two dogs and four cats. But my dream to be a full-time writer surpasses any frustration.

 

Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?

          I took the last name of “Tucker” after my beloved black Lab/shepherd mix who passed away in February at the age of 15. My first blog post, Tucker Everlasting, was in his memory. He was, paws down, The Best Dog In The World, and my family misses him terribly.

           

What would we find under your bed?

          Maybe a cat. Or two. And pet hair, probably lots of it. And hopefully an orange Chuck-It ball my dog Riley is obsessed with, because she oftentimes loses them, and those things are damned expensive.

 

Where are your fans most likely to find you hanging out?

Public domain image from wpclipart.com
            It involves manure. I spend lots of time in and around my beautiful barn, which was built by my husband Owen. He's not a professional builder, but he should be—he has incredible vision and constructed the barn without any plans, just from what I told him I'd like. I love the farm lifestyle, love horses with most all of my senses: the intoxicating scents of horse, hay and grain...seeing their ears pricked forward and their eyes soften when they're content, watching them run in the pasture with tails flying...the feel of their shiny coats and soft muzzles...the sound of their whinnies and nickers when they see me coming. Couldn't think of one for taste, sorry :).

           

What is your favorite quote?

          I love quotes, and I post a new one on my classroom bulletin board every week. One of my all-time favorites is, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” A former student teacher gave me a bumper sticker with this quote on it, and I have it on the front of my desk. Each year, I talk to my students about this on the first day of school.

 

What future projects are you considering?

          I currently have notes (there's that Planner again) on about four different projects in the genres of YA dystopian, YA fantasy and women's fiction. I. Need. To. Choose. I am leaning toward women's fiction for my next book, because I have thankfully had people asking for more of the same, and I have lots of material gleaned from spying like Harriet :).



 
 
 

Tracy H. Tucker is a middle school teacher with a Master's Degree in Literacy from the University of Maine and the proud mother of three of the best people on Earth. She was previously published in Seventeen, Language Arts, Learning K-8 and Reader's Digest. I KILL ME is her first novel. A typical day for Tracy includes eating chocolate, doling out dog cookies, walking her cat (seriously), eating chocolate, and cleaning up various forms of animal fecal matter. A new empty-nester and fighting it big-time, Tracy plans to keep busy inspiring the youth of America, writing, tending her small farm, and occasionally speaking to her husband.
 
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I Kill Me: Tales of a Jilted Hypochondriac
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3 comments:

Tracy Tucker said...

Laurie, thank you so much for featuring me!

Kar said...

Loved the synopsis. I hope I can read it soon! Loved the cover too! It's pretty weird, but I liked it anyway.
I'm looking forward to that YA dystopian that Tracy named on the interview. I'm worshiping that option :)

Tracy Tucker said...

I am just reading this comment now, Kar - I am glad you liked the synopsis and cover of I KILL ME! I'd love to hear from you if you read it.

As far as my YA dystopian...I plan to have that be my third book as I started another women's fiction novel. Thanks for your interest and support!