Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunshine Award

So I don't normally post twice in one day, but McKenzie McCann gave me an award, and I was so excited that I had to post this immediately. It's my first blog award!

OK, so here goes:

The rules are to:
-Thank the person who gave it to you. (Thanks, McKenzie!)
-Write a post about it.
-Pass it on.
-Answer the questions below.

  1. Favorite Color? Purple! And red. Often in combination (notice "fashion sense" is not listed among my talents).
  2. Favorite Animal? I love ducks, but only as a collectible (rubber duckies, etc.). Otherwise, they're vicious little beasts. Other than that, probably pigs or dogs.
  3. Favorite Number? 73. It was my number when I played softball as a kid. Everyone always picked 7 and 3, so eventually I just combined them.
  4. Favorite (non-alcoholic) drink? Vanilla coke. Ugh, I'm so addicted. I use to go through a 12-pack a week in college (yeah, we're still talking about soda).
  5. Facebook or Twitter? Mmm, I think Twitter. I like Facebook, but Twitter was really set up for someone like me. I have these random bursts where I really, really need to tell the world about what I did (I wish I could say these were monumental occasions). Facebook lets you do that, but not as efficiently. They both have their strengths as marketing tools though.
  6. My passion? Besides writing (I like how everyone feels the need to add this), I'm passionate about television. I majored in it in college, and for awhile I thought I wanted to be an editor for a TV show or to write television reviews (which I still do sometimes). I watch about 30 shows a week religiously, and I track ratings and network information as well. And the other half of my time is spent telling people I'm not a bum for watching that much TV--I'm doing research for my reviews!
  7. Getting or Giving presents? That's a close one. Probably giving. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love getting presents, but there's something so nice about picking out the perfect gift for someone.
  8. Favorite pattern? Plaid. I have a plaid comforter on my bed, and it's the comfiest-looking thing in the world. It doesn't help my writing when all I want to do is curl up under it and be cozy.
  9. Favorite day of the week? Saturday. I know it's cliche, but I don't care.
  10. Favorite flower? I guess wildflowers. Or something else brightly colored. I'm not really a flower person.

And so now I'm going to pass this on:

  1. K.S. Lewis
  2. Kyra Lennon (I know you were already tagged by McKenzie, but now you get it twice)
  3. Emily R. King
  4. Cassie Mae

February Wrap Up

I figure the end of the month is a good time to take a look at how I'm doing towards my writing resolutions and see what I can do to improve, both as a writer and as a chronic procrastinator.

Just as a note: according to Blogger I had 400 page views for the month of February. From when this blog began in October 2011 through January 2012, I had 114. I also went from having only one follower (thank you, Kim!) to have over 30. So thank you to everyone who's been following my blog and tweets! I really appreciate each and every one of you.


  1. Write 1000 words per day, Monday through Friday. As of this morning, I had 970 words left to hit my monthly goal of 21,000 words (which is akin to that 1000 words/day goal). Barring some unforeseen circumstance, I expect to write that by tonight, thus accomplishing this goal. (Hey, it's nice to start on a high note.)
  2. Begin Defenders. Yesterday I hit the 10,000 word mark for Defenders, so I'm well into it now. I also started/continued a story I'd originally intended to use for NaNoWriMo called Angels, but I'm only about two chapters into that and seem to be using it more for when I get writer's block, so we'll see what happens with that.
  3. Finishing editing Rosetta. The wheels fall off the wagon here. Not only have I not finished my edits, but I've barely worked on them all month. I started out with about 70 pages edited, and now I'm up to about 90. Not good enough.
  4. Submit short stories. This morning I submitted a short story to Penumbra eZine. I've also been submitting flash fiction stories to blog contests (and I must admit I'm getting kind of addicted to them). This is a fun way to hit my word count without agonizing over one novel the whole time, especially when that novel is as ornery as Defenders.

Three out of four isn't too bad, though I definitely wish I'd done better with Rosetta. If I ever want to start querying, I need to be, you know, complete. SO, with that in mind, here are my goals for March (I really like lists).

  • Continue writing 1000 words/day. This seems to be a pretty good amount, enough that I don't feel like I'm not doing anything, but not so much that I can't handle that with my day job. This makes my March word count goal 22,000 words.
  • Edit 50 pages of Rosetta per week. I honestly have no idea if this is feasible, but I need a stricter deadline for myself than, "Be done by the end of the month." I'm rewriting substantial parts of the book, but I'm still using quite a bit of the first draft, so hopefully this won't be completely unattainable.
  • Get 50 followers on my blog and Twitter. I'm at about 30 for both, so I don't think this is out of reach.
  • Continue to submit short stories and flash fiction.

I've discovered that I truly work better (read: I only work) when I have hard deadlines for myself with as little wiggle room as possible. If I can possibly find a way to put off doing the work, I will, even if I regret it later. I'm never going to be the kind of writer who only writes when they're inspired because I'll have nothing but a drawer of half-started manuscripts to show for it.

What about you guys? Does this kind of scheduling work for you, or do you work better with more flexibility?

Monday, February 27, 2012

There It Was...

I think I'm becoming addicted to flash fiction contests, and McKenzie McCann turned me onto this one. The challenge was to write a 250-word microfiction story beginning with, "After all this time, there is was." Here's my answer:

After all this time, there it was.

It was a boy—a simple, small boy, maybe seven years of age.

It was maybe half the height of the other boys, a third the weight, with shining eyes and a wide smile.

It was the proof that good things came in small packages.

And maybe it was the lifeline that would help pull her out of her personal ocean of depression.

She approached it—him—cautiously, as if he’d disappear if she got too close. But he smiled at her, big and broad, showing a gap where two front teeth were missing, as if he were oblivious to his own troubled past. “Hullo,” he said.

“Hi,” she replied, softly, so as not to scare him.

“Are you here for Jeffy?”

“No,” she said, and her heart broke for this little boy who’d been passed over so many times already.

His brow furrowed. “Britney then?”


“Oh. Um, Carly?”

“Nope.” The guessing game was relaxing her, and he looked taken aback when she finally smiled at him.

“Then who’re you ‘dopting?”

“Well,” she said, feeling like this was the biggest moment in her life, “if it’s alright with you, I’d like to adopt… you.”

His big, shining eyes got even shinier, and suddenly there it was again. That ache in her chest that told her they hadn’t taken her heart when they’d taken everything else.

There it is, she thought, taking him in her arms while he cried. There’s my son.

Friday, February 24, 2012

11 Questions

Okay, so you know that 11 Question thing that's been going around? Well, I wasn't actually tagged, but I do have 11 questions for all of you. Only they're not exactly fun, personal questions. More... practical questions, because I'm pretty new to this blogging thing. Okay, I just had 11 questions I wanted answers to, so I lumped them into this blog post. And, fine, there's not really 11 of them. I could only think of eight. But, anyway, here are my questions in no particular order. Sorry if they sound a little like a reading comprehension test from middle school.

  1. Do you have a blog schedule and why/why not?
  2. Do you use any social media sites (particularly ones other than Twitter) and why?
  3. Do you use Google Adsense on your blog, and is it worth it?
  4. At what point did you feel comfortable hosting bloghops/giveaways, particularly if the prize is a critique?
  5. Do you have other blogs and, if so, how do you divide your attention between them?
  6. How much are you willing to post about your WIPs: summaries, excerpts, detailed descriptions, etc.?
  7. What are some ways you drive traffic to your blog?
  8. Who's your favorite Disney character (okay, that one is a fun, personal question. I lied again. I'm pathological!)?

Just before posting this, I found some answers at a really good blogpost called 25 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Blog, but I'm still interested to hear others' opinions as well. Basically, I'm trying to learn everything there is to know about blogging in one day. Because that's not an impossible task. But anyway, any help/advice/tips you can offer are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Campaigner Challenge - Shadows on the Wall

I'm participating in Rachael Harrie's First Campaigner Challenge. Basically the challenge is to write a 200-word flash fiction that begins with "Shadows crept across the wall." The contest is open until Feb. 24, so head over to her blog to check it out.

Here's my submission:

Shadows crept along the wall. The setting sun turned them into grotesque misrepresentations of the man and woman at the table, warped in the dying orange light.

“There’s nothing you can do,” she said, her voice low, sharp, the silence cracking around it.

“So you said.” He wasn’t trying to be sarcastic.

She bristled anyway. “It’s too late now. You can’t change me.”

“You didn’t even give me the chance to try.” That wasn’t what he’d meant to say.

“What would you do?” she snapped, shoving the chair back. She began to pace. He watched with feigned disinterest.

“I have my own magic,” he began.

Her snort cut him off. “White magic. What could you possibly do against this?”

He muscles went tight at her derision. Suddenly he was in front of her. He didn’t remember moving.

He kissed her, hard and hungry, and she clung to him, drowning in it. “Let me try,” he said hoarsely when they were again apart.

For a second, her eyes were wet with trust. Then she took a breath, rebuilt her defenses, and said, “There’s nothing you can do. I’m sorry.”

She left the room, and his shadow danced on the wall alone.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Origin Story

So I know that origin blogfest was, like, a billion years ago (or last week), but I didn't put anything up back when it was actually going on. And there's a reason for that. Which is mostly... I don't know my writing origin.

I know a lot of writers say they've been writing forever, but then they'll say something like, "But I've been seriously writing since X." But I honestly can't remember a time when I haven't been seriously writing (for the purposes of this, I define "seriously writing" as "writing with intent to be published"). My parents say that at three years old, I told them I wanted to be a writer, and I have half-finished, rambling stories from as early as six (though admittedly, some of that are only very slightly altered Babysitter's Club stories). I started writing my first novel when I was eight, and I finished it when I was twelve. I even had my dad's friend (a self-published author) critique it for me. My second novel followed when I was sixteen, and then the Novel-We-Speak-Not-Of was for NaNoWriMo in 2009.

Now, granted, I don't believe anything I've written before Rosetta was nearly good enough for publication. But that didn't stop me from looking for awhile when I was in middle and high school. I'd get as far as the query letter before the wheels came off the wagon (hmm, that's where I am now...). Then I went to college and took a detour by majoring in television, only to realize that I enjoyed writing television reviews. Which ultimately led me back to fiction writing.

Anyway, this is sort of a long way of saying that I never really had that epiphany moment or that book that suddenly opened my eyes to the world of writing. It's just always been something I did. I carried notebooks with me everywhere I went, talked to myself in the shower in different characters' voices, and read like I was in Fahrenheit 451 and they were about to burn my books. It's just always been this little part of me that never really went away, even when I thought maybe I wasn't cut out for it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is It Getting Hot in Here?

I totally wasn't going to do this bloghop--mostly because Valentine's Day is the one day a year I take off from being a romantic--but, well, I couldn't resist. So here's a little scene I cooked up from my current wip:

I should have walked away then, said good night and gone back to Lucy’s room. But alcohol and my insecurities made me bolder than normal, and I moved closer to him, not letting him pass right away, making him slide past me.

Alec sucked in a breath. “Are you… staying over here?”

“Mhmm,” I answered, shooting for breathy and probably not succeeding. “In Lucy’s room.” I smiled at him, and judging by the look on his face I’d at least made it halfway to sexy. “Unless I get a better offer.”

“Quinn,” he groaned, taking an urgent step away from me. “You shouldn’t even start this.”

I stepped closer. “Why not?”

“Because… because…” He hesitated for a long, long time. “There’s a reason we broke up.”

“Sure,” I agreed amiably. “Because you were too chicken shit to put up with me. Are you still chicken shit, Alec?”

He was glaring now. “I wasn’t chicken shit,” he protested.

I laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Sure you were. Just a scared little boy who couldn’t take it when things got too intense. Just like now?”

“I wasn’t chicken shit,” he repeated. “And I’m not a scared little boy. Not then or now.”

I took another step closer, my chest touching his, looking directly up into his eyes with a challenge in mine. “Prove it.”

His lips slammed into mine, all fervor and no finesse for a minute before he eased back a little. He walked with me, pressing me back into a wall, lips moving against mine and tongue sliding into my mouth, tasting, caressing. His hands, tight against my shoulders at first, relaxed, sliding down my side to my waist, then up to just under my breasts. His fingers twitched against me.

I responded in kind, the kiss awakening the feelings that had never really gone dormant. My hands found the waistband of his pajama pants, hooking into them the same way I had a hundred times when we’d been together, and I pulled him closer. Heat fissured through me, settling in the pit of my stomach and lower, and I choked on the moan in my throat.

Then suddenly he was gone, and I shivered at the cold. His face was an almost comical mix of lust and horror which I’m sure mirrored my own expression perfectly. I tripped over my feet backing away.

“I, ah, I…”

Then I fled.

Putting Unpublished Work Online--How Much Is Too Much?

So I was thinking about doing the Valentine's Day blogfest, and I had a scene picked out from Rosetta and everything, but I stopped before I hit Publish. I know that when you put your whole unpublished story online, it's considered published, and that can ruin your chances of some agents/editors picking it up. But what about excerpts? General online consensus seemed to be don't do it, but they also seemed to be talking about entire chapters, not a 500-word scene from a 75,000-word book. Does anyone have some good advice on the subject, or know where I might find some? I suppose I could just change the names and some small details and not have to worry, but it's still probably a good thing to know for the future.

Thanks in advance!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Twitter Account, a New Name, and a Dream

I mentioned some changes yesterday, and here they are. In a few months I'll begin querying agents for Rosetta (which will probably no longer be called that by then), and, in an effort to begin marketing myself better, I think it's time I start actually creating an online presence for myself. So I'm making the switch to using my pen name more online.

THEREFORE, the name of this blog has changed to "Chock Full of Words". Because "One DV Rebel's Guide to Writing" was a cute homage to a Stu Maschwitz's book, but "Tobi Summers' Guide to Writing" just seems condescending. The URL, however, will not change.

Also, I have a shiny new Twitter account, under the name TobiSummers. I started following some people from the blogosphere, but tell me your Twitter handle if I'm not already following you.

That's about it for now, I think. Now that I've finished procrastinating, I should probably go back to editing Rosetta.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An Emotion for All Seasons

Alright, it's the last day of the I'm Hearing Voices blogfest, and today's theme is Emotion. I realized that throughout Rosetta I'd written Quinn as scared, nervous, concerned, depressed, drunk, tired, worried and contemplative, but I'd never written her as simply happy or content. Today I figured out why: because she's neurotic, and she worries about everything. It took three drafts for me to find a situation where she might not be worried about something for a few minutes. So hopefully you'll all enjoy this.

Trick lounged on the old, squishy couch in flannel pants and a worn T-shirt that may or may not have been his. Ben and Lucy were squabbling for space on the loveseat, while I put in the movie.

“What are we watching?” Ben asked as he pinned Lucy’s arms and slid back to take up as much room as possible. She elbowed him in the stomach, eliciting a groan. They’d wind up sharing the loveseat; they always did.

“A true gem this time,” I began, but Lucy cut me off.

“Not like Lobster Tale, right?”

“Ah… no,” I agreed. “That was a mistake. But this movie comes highly recommended by my best bad movie expert at the video store,” I rushed on. “It’s called Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens.”

They all stared at me incredulously. “That’s a real thing?” Ben demanded.

I grinned. “Prepare to be amazed.”

I hit the play button on the remote and the song that began to play over the title credits made us all laugh. I lifted Trick’s legs and settled onto the couch, draping his feet over my lap, the position as familiar to me as Lucy and Ben’s bickering. Ben threw popcorn at the screen when it got to be too bad, and Lucy and Trick took turns heckling him for his rotten aim. I propped stockinged feet on the coffee table and let my friends’ laughter wash away the hellish week.

Both those movies really exist. I watch Santa Claus every Christmas. It is a truly fantastic bad movie.

Also, keep an eye out for some changes to my blog this weekend (maybe... hopefully...). More on that in the next day or so.

Have a good weekend!

Giveaway Contest

Hey, all, just wanted to let you know about this giveaway contest on Tahereh Mafi's blog. She's giving away a ton of her books, and all you have to do to enter is comment. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When Alec Met Quinn...

Thank you for all the great feedback from Quinn on the Couch! I really appreciate all your kind words.

And we're off to the races for the Dialogue Introduction portion of the I'm Hearing Voices blogfest. I decided to go back in time to when Quinn first met Alec. This takes place about ten years before the start of Rosetta and a lot happened in that time, so the Quinn you see here should be a little different from the Quinn who was on the couch on Monday (or, you know, the Quinn who actually shows up in Rosetta).

Without further ado: When Alec Met Quinn...

“Hi. I’m Alec.”

“Ah! Shit... uh, I mean crap… I mean, uh, sorry. Hi.”

“Are you… alright?”

“Yeah. Sorry. I, um, drop things a lot.”

“Well, that’s okay. I like to pick things up.”

“Hah! That was either the worst pickup line ever, or—”

“Actually, it was just a crappy comeback. I was… I’m not really… that good at meeting people.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“No, it’s no problem.”

“So… Alec?”

“Yeah. Alec Hannigan. I’m… new, I guess.”

“A bitten wolf?”

“Yeah. Geoffrey just brought me here.”

“How long ago were you bitten?”

“Three weeks ago. Geoffrey found me right after and took me to a safe house until I… stopped trying to eat him.”

“Oh. Well, that’s… good.”

“So, uh, who’re you?”

“Right. Sorry. I’m Quinn. Dunlap. I was born a werewolf. Lived here my whole life.”

“All… seventeen years?”

“Hah! Good try. I’m fifteen. And I don’t look any older, so don’t bother lying to me.”

“You do! I thought you were at least my age.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I did! Why would I lie about that?”

“Because you’re trying to impress me.”

“Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know! Because you’re a 17-year-old boy, and that’s what boys do.”

“Maybe I’m not like other boys.”

“Yeah, right. Maybe you’re just like other boys. But I’ll give you a chance to make it up to me.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Sure. I need someone to help me put these spiders in Carson’s bed anyway.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quinn on the Couch

OK, here goes. I need to get to know no character more than Quinn, my MC for Rosetta, so let's see what she has to say to these questions from the I'm Hearing Voices! Character Blogfest:

  1. What is your biggest vulnerability? Do others know this or is it a secret?
    Oh, God, everything. I'm a lousy fighter, I'm too emotional, and I have a tendency to, you know, panic in the middle of a battle. And that's definitely not a secret. I wish it was, but, yeah.
  2. What do people believe about you that is false?
    I guess people think that because I don't complain, I'm okay with everything that they do. I've just never seen the point in confronting every issue head on. But that doesn't mean I like what they're doing.
  3. What would your best friend say is your fatal flaw? Why?
    She'd probably say that it's that I give people too many chances, and I don't learn from my mistakes. I guess that's true. I have trouble holding a grudge sometimes, and I want to trust people even though I've been burned before.
  4. What would the same friend say is your one redeeming quality? Why?
    *laughs* Okay, let's be clear here. Her opinion and mine are very different on this subject. She'd say that my ability to approach any situation logically is my biggest redeeming quality. Which is all well and good when you have the time to sit there and make a pro-con list, but it doesn't help much in the heat of a fight, when you need to make decisions off the cuff.
  5. What do you want most? What will you do to get it?
    Honestly? Not much. I want my brother and sister to come back to the Pack. I want to stop panicking every time I get pinned in a fight, and I want to stop feeling helpless all the time. And the only way I can think of to get is to become the best damn Pack Guardian and train until all that fear is gone.

Well. That was considerably more difficult than I expected it to be (not what I'd like to think after conversing with the main character of a novel I just spent seven months writing). Clearly, I have quite a bit more to learn about Quinn.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'm Hearing Voices

I’m Hearing Voices

Yeah, it's a little bit short notice, but I didn't go back far enough when I started following Cassie's blog, so I just found out about it. But it looks like fun, and definitely a good character exercise. Good luck to anyone entering!

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Kim and I were having a conversation about character names, when I had the thought that this might be an interesting blog post. Which I told Kim. And for some reason she's still willing to have conversations with me.

I love coming up with names for my characters. In fact, it may be my favorite part of writing. I really enjoy the way the right name combination feels when you say it out loud. I like that click you get when you have the perfect first and last name combination, like Harry Potter or Nicholas Nickleby or Ramona Quimby. Sometimes I agonize over the perfect name for a character, going to baby name generators to get just the right meaning, playing with the sound of it until I'm positive--positive--it's the right one.

And sometimes I wing it.

I changed Quinn's name three times when I was starting Rosetta. In fact, for half the first chapter she was Bailey, and in the plot summary, she's still Becky. I then had to consciously stop myself from changing it again (this time to Dakota) when I was a few chapters in. I don't know why I had so much trouble, but nothing ever felt right. I'd been reading all these urban fantasy series where the main characters had really excellent names (Rachel Vincent's Faythe and Liv, Patricia Briggs' Mercy, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty), and I kept feeling like my MC couldn't live up to it. Eventually she settled into the name Quinn, and I grew to like it, but it was a rough road there.

Sometimes a name just comes naturally. In my first novel, three of the four characters' names flew from my mind to the page with no effort. I thought them, and they were perfect. I find this happens a lot more often with minor characters though, whose names matter a little less.

And sometimes a character will develop around a name. In Rosetta, one of Quinn's friends is a guy named Trick. With a name like that, how the character be anything but a bit of a joker? Sure, he can get serious when he needs to, but he's mostly just a light-hearted, fun guy.

I'm thinking about this a lot now, since I'm just beginning Defenders. The naming process has been slightly more difficult for this book because, for some reason, I have a lot more trouble with girls' names than boys'. In Rosetta, Quinn's world is split fairly evenly between males and females, maybe a little heavier on the male side. If that's so, it's because I love coming up with names for boys. But Defenders follows a group of six girls, who interact primarily with other girls, at least until book 3. Sure, there are some scattered guys there, but not enough to use up the well of names I have stored.

And now that I've basically turned this into an ode to names, I turn it over to you. Have you ever heard a name that's really stood out to you (something you've written or someone else has)? Are there names you absolutely can't stand? Do your feelings about a name influence the character you create? Personally, I don't like the name John, so any Johns in my story are usually boring guys. And once I found out Donovan meant Dark One (or something like that), it became my fall-back name for every bad guy I wrote. Do you have names like that?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Love the Smell of a New Month in the Morning

So today begins a new month in what I'm affectionately calling "The Year of Get Off Your Butt and Do More Than Talk About Writing" (or TYOGOYBADMTTAW, for short). With this new month begins a new project, a new goal, and a new deadline. February's goals are as follows:

  • Write 1000 words per day, Monday through Friday. This adds up to a monthly goal of 21,000 words.
  • Begin Defenders. This is my paranormal YA project, the first book in a five-book series. It centers on a city called Rafcate, which was attacked and nearly destroyed 150 years ago. To make sure that never happens again, every citizen is drafted into military service at the age of sixteen. The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Laurie, who is looking forward to serving, until the body of a teenage girl shows up on her doorstep with a message about treason and revolution.
  • Finishing editing Rosetta. I'm about 70 pages into my edits, and I'm rewriting significant portions of the first draft, but my hope is that I can finish the first round of edits by the end of the month, after which I'll finally be able to allow other people to read it and offer critiques.
  • Submit short stories. I'm also looking to write and submit some short stories to magazines and contests. I'm on Duotrope, but if anyone knows of any other websites like it, please let me know.

My writing goals for the year are fairly ambitious, but I'm slowly starting to learn that big goals and hard deadlines will keep me writing and moving forward better than anything else. How do you keep yourself motivated to write and edit?