Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - 2/2/16

Photo credit: Jane Green's website

I just finished physically reading my first biography since high school (though I've listened to a few audiobooks), so as a reward for my accomplishment, I decided to take it easy with a fun, chick-lit book. And nobody does that better than Jane Green, who happens to be the author of one of my very favorite books of all time--Bookends. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys these sorts of books.

This, however, is not Bookends. It's a slightly newer release called Swapping Lives (or Life Swap, for those in the UK). I'm about halfway through and really enjoying myself.

What if a successful, single Londoner and a comfortable, Connecticut mother of two were to walk in each other's shoes for a month? Vicky Townsley is the director of Poise! magazine and lives a glamorous London life. She has everything she wants-except marriage, children, and a house in the country. Amber Winslow has a stone mansion in Connecticut, two kids, and a nanny, but she hasn't found the fulfillment she had expected from being a wife and mother. When she spots an intriguing contest in Poise! Amber impulsively enters, never expecting to be picked. ​

The rules for Teaser Tuesday are:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Then hit up A Daily Rhythm to add your link.

And the teaser:

Vicky is sitting on the floor of the tiny second bedroom that doubles as her office, sifting through yet another pile. Thus far she has found four unpaid bills, all of which are a minimum of four months old; two invitations to parties, both of which she realizes she not only missed, but never even rsvp'd; a press release about a new method of laser vein removal that she'd brought home from work, not wanting anyone to know she was about to get the spider veins in her legs treated, and had been looking for for weeks; her driver's license--how in the hell did that get there? Wasn't it always in her bag?--and some readers' letters that she had brought home to respond to, but that had swiftly been eaten up by the pile.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Grammar Check - Quotation Marks

A new year, and I'm reintroducing Grammar Check to my blog. This is a monthly installment where I break down a concept in grammar, such as the difference between "affect" and "effect," the semicolon, and the difference between "then" and "than."

Today's post is about the quotation mark. Specifically, it's about the double quotation mark. Quotation marks are used for a few different purposes, the most obvious of which is to denote speech. When it comes to speech, the rules surround quotation marks are pretty simple. There should be a quote at the beginning and end of the dialogue. If there's an attribute at the end, the punctuation should be inside the quote, before the attribute. If the attribute is at the beginning, the punctuation should be after the attribute, but before the opening quotation mark. For example:

"Can you throw the ball?" Jamie asked.
"Throw it here," Todd demanded.
Alice shook her head and said, "I don't want to throw it."
"Throw it!" yelled Josh.

As you can see, it doesn't matter what kind of sentence the dialogue is (interrogative, imperative, declarative, or exclamatory). The punctuation mark goes inside the quotation marks, but before the attribution (if the attribution is after the dialogue). If the word that follows the quotation mark isn't a proper noun (so if it's something like "yelled" in the above example), that word is lowercase, no matter with what punctuation mark the dialogue ends. And no matter what, the punctuation mark that's after the attribution is always a period (or a comma or semicolon, if the sentence is going to continue. But it's never a question mark or exclamation point).

There are other uses for the quotation marks as well. One is for certain titles. The rules about grammar and titles have changed a lot since I was in school, with the more widespread use of computers and their ability to italicize. But there are still times to use quotes, especially for shorter works, like articles, song titles, short stories, poems, TV episodes, etc.

Now, I know the next question is, "Where do I put the punctuation if the title of an article is also the end of the sentence?" And I have to admit, this one has tripped me up a time or two, and it's because there's a geographical component to it. In America, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks. Semicolons and colons always go outside. In Europe, commas and periods go outside the quotation marks when it comes to titles. So that's something to keep an eye on when you're writing.

More informally, quotation marks are also used to indicate sarcasm or skepticism. I'm sure everyone has at some point in their life used air quotes in conversation to refer to something in a disbelieving or sarcastic tone. That works in writing too, and the rules are the same as with titles.

I know it seems like a lot of rules (and some of them were difficult to articulate without making it more complicated than it is), but the more you use them, the more comfortable you'll get. Like with anything else, practice is the key. Good luck!

If there are any topics you want me to cover in this series, leave me a comment or email me at tobisummers@writeme.com.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday - Purple Swirls and Orange Spots

Prompt: Essence of ______

Purple Swirls and Orange Spots

Cecily liked auras. She liked that they were sparkly and shiny. She liked all the different colors, and the ways they swirled and danced. She liked that she knew someone's mood just by the way their aura crackled.

And mostly she liked that she was the only one who could see them.

For all twelve years of her life, Cecily had been last. She was the last child in her family. The last to walk, the last to talk, the last to potty train, the last to read. In school, she was last in her class. Last to finish tests. Last to be promoted from primary school. Last to get a hit in softball, last to finish the mile run.

Last, last, last. Always last.

But none of Cecily's brothers and sisters could see auras. None of her classmates knew how passionately red they got, or that "green with jealousy" wasn't just a metaphor, or to never approach anyone who was ice blue. Even her parents and teachers didn't understand why they were drawn to someone with a sparkly aura or repelled from someone whose aura was turned in on itself.

But Cecily knew all that.

She just didn't know what to do with that knowledge.

So when the strange man in the park said, "You're full of purple swirls," to her, Cecily didn't keep walking like her parents' Stranger Danger videos had suggested she do. She gave him a considering look before replying, "Well, you're yellow with orange spots," partly because it was true and partly to see what he would say.

He smiled broadly, displaying every one of his white, straight teeth. "I thought so," he said. "But you can't see your own aura, you know."

"I know."

His smile got even bigger. "I thought you would know, too."

"So you see them too then?" Cecily asked because she was too excited to wait for him to get to the point.

"Of course I do. How else would have known about you?"

"You could be lying about me. I can't see it, remember?"

He looked like she had been particularly clever. "How about that boy on the swingset?" he asked, motioning with an open palm. Cecily thought that was much less rude than pointing.

"I see him," she said carefully.

"Bright yellow, with sparkles and a green swirl, right?"

Cecily felt like her whole face had split into a grin. "Yes! He's jealous because his mother won't let him go on the monkey bars, but he's having a good time on the swing too!"

"Clever girl," the man murmured. "There are others like us. Not many, but some. I know how to find them, if you want."

"Yes," Cecily gasped, then paused. "But... but I shouldn't go with you. I don't know you."

He considered that. "I'm Decker. Colin Decker."

"Cecily Brookside." She shook his proffered hand.

"What if I give you the address, Cecily Brookside?" Decker asked, digging in one of many pockets on his coat and drawing out a scrap of paper and a pen. "And you can decide when and if you want to come. There's always someone there. I'll tell them to expect you."

She took the paper from him. "I... okay." She bounced on her toes for a moment before adding, "Thank you."

"I hope you come," he told her honestly. "I think it could be just what you need." There was a faraway look in his eyes when he added, "I think you could be just what they need too."

And then he was gone. Not in a flash or a blink like some silly movie, but with a thumbing of his nose and a brisk walk, his aura swirling until it was a glowing, cheerful orange. Cecily looked at the address again. Tomorrow, she decided. I'll go see them tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Teaser Tuesday - 1/12/16

Photo credit: Amazon

I don't know if anyone else out there watches "The Librarians" on TNT, but I'm completely addicted to it. I fell in love with it when it first premiered in November of 2014, and I think I've watched every episode of its two seasons at least twice. The only problem I have with it is that it only airs for ten episodes.

So once the second season finale aired a couple weeks ago, I've been jones-ing for books and/or other shows that are just like it. Some online research led me to a series called The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. The books are on the young side of YA and the characters/stories are a little flat, but the world she created is just so interesting that I've been breezing through them. I'm on book 3 now, but I''m going to put the summary and teaser from book 1. All three books follow different characters and different objects, but they all revolve around the New York Circulating Material Repository.

Elizabeth has just started working as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository - a lending library of objects, contemporary and historical, common and obscure. And secret, too - for in the repository's basement lies the Grimm Collection, a room of magical items straight from the Grimm Brother's fairy tales. But the magic mirrors and seven-league boots and other items are starting to disappear. And before she knows it, she and her fellow pages - handsome Marc, perfect Anjali, and brooding Aaron - are suddenly caught up in an exciting, and dangerous, magical adventure.​

The rules for Teaser Tuesday are:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Then hit up A Daily Rhythm to add your link.

And the teaser:

This had to be the strangest interview I'd ever heard of. Was I going to lose the job because Dr. Rust didn't like the way I sorted buttons?

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Sooo... last year didn't go so well with the whole New Year's resolution thing. I was really only able to keep one of my four resolutions, and even that one only lasted about six months. But with a new year comes a new chance, so here's what I'm going for this year:

  1. Publish Pack Supremacy - No, really! I know it's been on my list for the last two years, but this one will be it. Honest! Alright, so I know I'm starting to sound a little like the girl who cried wolf, but hey, it's got to go up eventually, right? K.S. Lewis has it for one last pass, and my other CP has already signed off on it. After that it's just line edits and formatting. I'd really love to have it up by March, so it'll be ready for the Liberty State Fiction Writers' Create Something Magical conference.
  2. Consistent blogging... again - I know, I know. I'm starting to get really repetitive. But these are areas I really want to work on. I was able to maintain a consistent blogging schedule for six months last year, and I hope I can make it 10 or 11 this year (there's no way I'll be able to keep up with my blog during NaNoWriMo, so I'm trying to be realistic).
  3. Finish writing CH3 - Of all my resolutions, I think this is the closest to a "sure thing" I could have. I wrote over 50,000 words of CH3 during NaNo a few months ago, so if I haven't finished it by November, that'll be my project again. I think this one will require a little less editing than Pack Supremacy did at least.
  4. Publish a paperback version of Pack Mentality - This has been something I wanted to do for a few years now, but I put it on the backburner so I could finish Pack Supremacy. Now that that's almost done, it's time to revisit the paperback. I'd love to have a physical copy of my book.
  5. Begin to take the business side of writing more seriously - This is the vaguest of my resolutions, and the one that will probably take more than a year to complete. I was told to wait until I had three books published before I really invest time or money into marketing myself. If the rest of my goals go according to plan, by the end of this year I'll have two books published and the first draft of the third finished. At this point, I think it'll be time for me to start making some decisions about it.

I know some people think making resolutions is silly because no one keeps them, and I can't exactly argue, with my track record. But I like taking some time--whether it be at the beginning of the year or at any point along the way--to assess where I want to be and what I need to do to get there.

Did anyone else make some New Year's resolutions?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - 6/16/15

Photo credit: The copyrights for the images are held by Katie Little | Dreamstime.com, James Hearn | Dreamstime.com, and Michael Shevlin. The copyright for the cover is held by Patricia L. Miller.

As I'm finishing up what will hopefully be my last round of edits for Pack Supremacy, I thought now would be an appropriate time to use it for Teaser Tuesday. This book has really been a labor of love, but there are so many things that I'm realizing I'm proud of, and I can't wait for you all to be able to read it.

If you're interested in reading more than the teaser, the prologue is on my website.

The Big Bad Wolf is loose in New York City...

Quinn Dunlap has never been the most involved member of the Mid-Atlantic Werewolf Pack. She isn't like her brother Carson, who's been training for his role as Beta since they were little kids. She isn't even like her best friend Lucy, who signed up to be a Guardian the day she turned 18.

So even with their help, Quinn's not handling her new responsibilities very well. Nor is the Pack handling all the recent changes that well either. They're in turmoil, and things are about to get even less stable when little girls start dying and all the signs point to a rogue werewolf.

...and he's got a connection to Lucy.

Lucy has always been a "hit first" kind of girl, but she's had to step up recently and start using her brain before her fists. She knows that letting her temper get the best of her can have dangerous consequences, especially with a rogue werewolf in town. But when things get a little too personal, Lucy's recklessness lands her in a situation she might not be able to escape.

The rules for Teaser Tuesday are:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  • Then hit up Should Be Reading to add your link.

And the teaser:

I'd never considered myself a violent person. I mean, just because I'm a werewolf doesn't mean I'm bloodthirsty and uncivilized. But if I had to listen to Carson and Lucy go one more round about whether we should allocate more Pack funds toward buying new Guardian equipment or reinforcing the fences at our borders, I was going dig out the gun Geoffrey had left in his office and shoot them both.

I just wouldn't load it with silver bullets.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Apologies, or The Things Sports Do To Us

Sorry about the impromptu month-long hiatus I took. For those who don't follow me on Twitter, I've grown into a pretty big hockey fan in the last couple years, and the Rangers seemed to play every Monday this month, which is when I normally write my posts. But, sadly, I won't have to worry about that again until next year, so starting next week I'll be returning to my regularly scheduled posting.

A quick update on where I am right now: After having two very productive conversations with my beta readers, I'm midway through what should be final round of edits on Pack Supremacy (excepting line edits). I hope to have that done by next week at the latest, after which I can begin preparing to publish. While I waited for feedback, I began outlining Capitoline Hill #3 and continued to work on my outline for Bex Addison. I hope to begin writing CH3 in November, and Bex sometime next year.

I also had the opportunity to attend The Book Con last weekend in NYC. I wasn't able to go to any of the panels, but I visited all the exhibits, had some interesting conversations, got a few free books, and had a great time. (And then I got to see Finding Neverland on Broadway, which was as magical as you'd expect, and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes Peter Pan.)

I hope you all had a good May and are looking forward to June!