Friday, May 22, 2015

Excitement and Apprehension

Sunday is the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I made it to the 500 for the first time last year, and I'd hoped to attend this year, but didn't manage it. So I'm eagerly awaiting the race on Sunday, planning to be in front of my TV for every bit of action and to have Twitter open to chat with the friends I'd otherwise see at the track.

I'm obviously excited about the race—particularly about seeing Pippa Mann driving the pink Susan G. Komen car around, carrying a friend's name in the cockpit.

But I'm also apprehensive. This is one of the fastest races in the world, with cars consistently averaging in the high 220 m.p.h. a lap and touching 230 sometimes on the straights.

Which makes it exciting. And dangerous.

There are new aerodynamic kits on the cars this year, which probably contributed to three of them going airborne last week in practice. Cars flying = not what's intended.

Driving that fast with other cars around you means sometimes you can't recover when things go wrong, as Pippa found out last week when she spun trying to avoid someone.

And when parts break, as they occasionally do, sometimes there's a lot of damage. On Monday, the quick action of the safety crew seems to have saved James Hinchcliffe's life when a suspension piece on his car broke and sent him into the wall. The impact apparently measured 125 Gs.

It's astonishing anyone can recover from an impact that big, so kudos to all the safety workers, safety engineers, helmet makers, soft-barrier makers, and so on. And that gives a viewer (and more than one driver's family member, I'm sure) more confidence headed into the biggest race on the calendar for many.

But so much can go wrong, that while I'm excited, I'm also apprehensive in a way that I'm not when I watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for instance (coming up in three weeks!). I know this is the safest era of racing. One statistic tossed around on social media was as many as 25 practice crashes during one year in the late '80s. Compared to five this year.

But it's still a dangerous, dangerous sport. So I'll be watching closely on Sunday. But I'll also be crossing my fingers that nothing goes really wrong.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why I Donate

Twenty-five years ago, I gave a family friend a gift of a star named in her honor. She was particularly hard to buy for, and I wasn't sure if she'd like the gift or not. Turns out, she loved it. She hooted, with the distinctive laugh she had that I can still conjure in my memory. And she displayed the certificate proudly.

It was only a couple years later that cancer would take her from us.

That time it was lung cancer, not breast cancer. But the first time, back in 1980 or so, it was breast cancer. I was a kid at the time, so the magnitude of her battle was lost on me. But looking back, the 20 extra years we had her in our lives was a miracle.

Her name was Barbara, and she and her husband were good friends of my parents (we lost her husband to cancer also, five years before she died). Barbara was about 10 years older than my mother, and she wasn't related by blood, which was important. Because as I was wrapped up in the self-centered murkiness of my teen years, and as I tried to figure out who I was that was different from who my mother was, Barbara helped.

I thought of her as my fairy godmother of logic. (My logic godmother?) She was the one who'd talk sense to me, who'd straighten out my warped, irrational brain. Who'd help me see past the "I shoulds" and "I can'ts" to my own soul and happiness. In a way, for me, she really was magic.

I'm not telling you she was perfect. She wasn't, I know that. But she was a great friend, and I still miss her, deeply. I still think of her sometimes and cry because I miss her. I still get angry at cancer for taking her—and so many other wonderful people we've all known—from us.

And she's why I give anytime someone asks for a donation for a cancer organization. She's why I'm spreading the word as widely as possible about Pippa Mann's pink car for Susan G. Komen at the Indianapolis 500.

Twenty-five years after that named star, 16 years after I last saw her, and nowhere near Christmas or her birthday, I'm giving my friend Barbara another gift. I'm giving her a ride-along in Pippa's car for the entire Indy 500 race, by putting her name in Pippa's racecar. I think Barbara would like that a lot.

I hope you'll join me and #GetInvolved, so we can both celebrate the survivors (and fighters) and kick cancer's ass.

(photo from Pippa's Instagram)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Unusual Request From Me

I'm pretty careful with all of my social media efforts. I never ask you all to spend money and buy my books. To me, that's not the point. The point is a good conversation and an exchange of ideas, not asking for dollars.

But I'm breaking my rule. I'm going to ask you to part with a little bit of money. Thing is, it's not for me.

If you've followed me at all, you know I'm a huge supporter of a female racecar driver named Pippa Mann. She's going to race in the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time this year, and she'll be racing in support of the Susan G. Komen organization for the second year in a row.

She's determined to make an impact with her pink car—not only on the track, but also raising funds to donate to the Komen foundation. I'm determined to help her.

So I'm asking you to contribute to her #GetInvolved campaign, to buy just a pink rubber wristband for $5. Doing so means you'll add your voice to the crowd, supporting women and men dealing with breast cancer, and supporting Pippa reaching for her goals.

Mind you, if you want to contribute more money, there are other great perks up for grabs. There are can koozies, "Pippa races for ____" tee-shirts, and great looking posters (image above). You can even get your hands on her race-worn racing suit! But probably that's too rich for all of our blood (and Pippa won't be sorry to keep it), whereas a wristband is something we can probably all manage.

Because it's $5. A small amount of money to support a worthy cause—do you realize that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer? A small amount of money to show Pippa that we're behind her—do you realize that only two of 33 drivers in the Indy 500 this year are likely to be women? That only nine have ever qualified for the race?

This month, check my books out from a library, don't buy them. Please, instead, donate to Pippa's #GetInvolved campaign. Get behind the pink car in the Indy 500, and let's try to make breast cancer an afterthought.

Friday, May 1, 2015

This Week's Words: May 1

To start the month of May off right, here are some words of inspiration from a pioneering female racecar driver, the woman with the second most starts in the Indy 500:

"Whenever I get to a low point, I go back to the basics. Why am I doing this? It comes down to passion."
–Lyn St. James

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Signing Saturday!

I'm pretty excited to be signing and selling books at the coolest, most relevant bookstore around—with a bunch of other car nuts and a couple other fiction writers. Events here are known for drawing cool old cars to the streets outside the store, and sometimes even a famous face or two.

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with us!

2900 W. Magnolia
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 Questions with Pippa Mann, Revisited

Racing driver Pippa Mann will return to the Indianapolis 500 this year for the fourth time, and it’ll be her second time “going pink.” That’s right, she’s returning with her pink racecar, supporting—and supported by—the Susan G. Komen foundation.

Pippa’s starting a big campaign aimed at rounding up more support … but not for her own funding, though she scrambles as much as any racecar driver for that. No, she’s aiming to get us all involved with the mission to end breast cancer forever. Along the way, she’ll celebrate the fighters and survivors by carrying their colors into battle on the racetrack.

I’m going to #GetInvolved, and I hope you will also. To kick things off, here are five questions Pippa answered last year before the “greatest spectacle in racing.”

Tammy: Why do you love to race?
Pippa: I love the adrenaline, the feeling of speed, of controlling that powerful car underneath me. I'm competitive, so I love beating the boys on their own terms, too. Much like the horse riding I started with, it's one of the few sports where we get to play together and compete as equals. I love that about motor sport.

What's your racing goal or dream?
Haha, this is easy! Winning the Indy 500 one day!

But I personally have a second goal, pertaining to the Indy 500, that I feel very strongly about. Currently I am the only female pole winner ever at IMS, which I achieved in Indy Lights in 2010. In a race, so much can go wrong, so much is dependent on everything else around you. In qualifying, it's just you and the car your engineer has managed to give you—there are still all sorts of factors that come into play, but so many fewer than on race day. One day I want to repeat my feat from Indy Lights in an IndyCar at IMS. I want to be on pole for the Indy 500.

Aren't racing and the fight against breast cancer a strange combination?
You might think, but here's a different perspective: The Indy 500 reaches millions of people. Literally, millions. Millions here in the U.S., millions across the world. There are around half a million at the track itself when you combine race day and carb day attendance together, before we even get into the people who come out for qualifying weekend. The parade through downtown Indy on the Saturday before the race is the third largest parade in the U.S., after the Rose Bowl parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and it's also televised nationally.

The potential reach, to hopefully connect with people via this pink car—this entire pink program—and to raise awareness, is massive. Don't think of this as a motor race. Think of it as a national platform at one of the biggest, most prestigious sporting events of the year, with a female athlete to help spread the word. Then it's a campaign on this same, amazing national platform, to try and raise funding by those who want to get involved in a bigger way, too.

Why is this pink car so important this year?
When I was a teenager, who just started racing, I never wanted pink anywhere as a part of my racing program. I didn't want to be perceived as "the girl" on track, I wanted to be perceived as good, someone who the other drivers either respected—or given karting was, ahem, occasionally something of a contact sport—even someone they feared and knew not to mess with. Pink didn't really fit into that vibe.

That was an attitude that took me a long time to grow out of, and the first time my thoughts about it really changed was actually due to Sarah Fisher again. My first year in the U.S., in 2009, I vividly remember her car at Homestead, when they turned her entire program pink during breast cancer awareness month for Susan G. Komen. I had never seen that before, and it stuck with me.

Now here I am, five years later, with my own pink Susan G. Komen IndyCar. This time, instead of running it for breast cancer awareness month, we're running it at the Indy 500. It's a program I am incredibly proud to have put together, and I am proud to be associated with such a great organization and with a cause that means so much to me. We are using our program to raise awareness and funding [through #GetInvolved], and my helmet is changing color for the first time in over 10 years to match our program.

Then there's the completely secondary reason why this program is kind of cool, and this is something I have only grown into admitting over the past few years.

Let's face it, 99% of little girls do like pink. I have worked with so many young karters, and met so many little girls who are race fans out at the tracks over the previous five years. They are always so pleased to be able to cheer for me when I'm driving, and so sad when I'm not. Completely aside from the big reasons why I want to run this car, to me, it's kind of cool that all those little girls who are fans now not only have a girl to cheer for in this year's Indy 500, but also can cheer for a girl in a pink car!

Tell us how different it is to say "my race is no longer about me"?
I'm a racing driver, and we have a bad habit of thinking of ourselves first and foremost nearly all of the time. So yes, it is pretty weird not only to say that, but also to feel it, and to know it deep inside, too. I'm not out there racing for just me and my team this year, and this car means so much more than racing a car with just a standard logo on the side.

This isn't even really about racing anymore. It's about using this race, and the entire Indy 500 event, as a platform for a campaign to raise awareness and funding for a disease that one in eight women in the U.S. are diagnosed with. Every time I say “one in eight,” I am reminded how scary that statistic is. My family has been touched too, but we're not the anomaly, we're the rule. That's why this is not about me or my family personally. It's about everyone who has been affected or touched in whatever way. This is much, much bigger, and way more important than me.

Follow Pippa at @pippamann and find out more at
Photo credits: Chris Owens (more).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Deadlines Are Good for Me

The good news is that I've settled into this new lifestyle of mine well. I'm rested, more healthy, and more engaged with friends and life. I'm actually able to contemplate (and consider enjoying) coming events and family visits.

The bad news ... well, there isn't much, except for needing a little more income than I'm getting. But I'm working on that, too.

The best news, however, is that I'm actively working on the next Kate book again, and I worked out some deadlines with my editor. Yes, deadlines. Because they work for me.

It's that overachiever problem again. If I know a deadline is actually reasonable, I will meet it (and usually I'll be early).

(Side note: if I'm handed an unreasonable deadline, I'll just get angry. See: former day job.)

So now I've got deadlines, which is a good thing. Because now I'm accountable to more people than just myself, and I can set myself measurable goals every day. I think that's one of the problems for me with writing a novel.

The goal: write a novel. There's planning to do. Outlining. Character profiles. Plotting. And then the writing of somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 words. Then editing that down to 85,000-90,000. Starting to write a book feels like staring up at a mountain and knowing I need to reach the top.

But usually, fortunately, once I get partway up, I can stop and find some structure. Make a plan. And know when I'll finish—necessary, since my publisher actually likes to plan for a release. If you can imagine.

Bottom line: Kate #4 (working on a title) should be out a year from now, April 2016. It's set at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and I hope to do some fun promotion around the actual race coinciding with the book release.

I'm leaving you with some photos from the Long Beach race to hold you, including one of me and my friend Barb in the pits of the race winner, Scott Dixon.