Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zemmiphobia

Zemmiphobia is an irrational fear of the great mole rat. While there is not technically an animal called the great mole rat, there is a commonly accepted type of mole rat that would fall into this description. It looks like this:

Scary, right?

I don't have zemmiphobia, nor do I know anyone with it, but in high school I got my hands on one of those lists that includes every phobia, and this was one of the few that stuck in my head. I don't know why, but I still can't think about it without giggling (I sincerely apologize to anyone with this phobia). I just can't imagine there are enough people in the world afraid of this tiny, blind, hairless rodent to make it a full-blown phobia. But then, there are a lot of really random fears that I wouldn't expect to be phobias. For example:

  • Alliumphobia - Fear of garlic (vampire much?)
  • Cherophobia - Fear of gaiety
  • Chrometophobia or Chrematophobia - Fear of money
  • Erythrophobia or Erytophobia or Ereuthophobia - 1) Fear of redlights. 2) Blushing. 3) Red.
  • Gnosiophobia - Fear of knowledge
  • Graphophobia - Fear of writing or handwriting
  • Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia - Fear of the number 666 (OK, this one's not so random. I just wanted to marvel over the length of that word)
  • Kathisophobia - Fear of sitting down
  • Linonophobia - Fear of string
  • Macrophobia - Fear of long waits
  • Mythophobia - Fear of myths or stories or false statements
  • Nomatophobia - Fear of names
  • Pteronophobia - Fear of being tickled by feathers
  • Sinistrophobia - Fear of things to the left or left-handed (I take offense to this)
  • Verbophobia - Fear of words
  • Xerophobia - Fear of dryness

This list brought to you by The Phobia List.

On an unrelated note, congratulations to everyone who completed the A-Z Challenge! It was a lot of fun, though I'm definitely glad it's over. Means more time for (not) writing Defenders and (definitely) writing Bex. Happy Z Day!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Generation Y

I'm part of Generation Y. Wikipedia doesn't have an official start date for it, but most people it in the late 70s or early 80s. This is my generation. We're also called the Peter Pan Generation because we don't move out and start out grown up lives quickly enough.

I take a bit of offense to that. I know a lot of people in my generation who'd love to become independent adults, who are financially incapable of it. We came of age during a recession. Finding jobs out of college was nearly impossible, and finding a full-time job with benefits and a modicum of financial security was basically a pipe dream. It took me 15 months out of school before I found a full-time job, and even then I worked as a contractor for seven months (no benefits, hourly salary) before I was fully hired. I'm one of just a handful of my friends who has that.

Instead, my generation is going back to school. Grad school is becoming an option for people who can't find a job and don't want any gaps in their resume. It's the hope that having just a little more education will set you apart from the competition.

To those who don't believe the economy is getting better: it really is. In the last year, I've seen almost all my friends (who've been unemployed or barely employed for three to four years) find some kind of job. Kids in this year's graduating class are being offered jobs right out of school. Are we back to full strength? Definitely not. But there's a definitely improvement now from when I graduated college.

It's a tough world out there. I consider myself fortunate everyday that I wake up and go to a job I don't hate, work decent hours, and make decent money. I know there are a lot of people who don't have that option.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oh, My Hero! Blog Hop

Also, today's Jaycee DeLorenzo's and Victoria Smith's Oh, My Hero! Bloghop. The rules are here.

I'm doing two heroes because I couldn't decide. They're from my newest project, the untitled Bex Addison book (I'm really bad at coming up with titles). Basically, it's set ten years after scientists figure out how to bottle and sell magic. Once they discover how volatile it is, they ban it, which immediately makes it the hottest drug on the market. Bex is part of the Magical Law Enforcement Team, tasked with tracking down cartels and dangerous Burn-Outs and eliminating the threat.

My heroes today are her partner on the force, Adrian McCoy.

And the leader of her undercover operation, Greyson Westfield.

Tobi Summers: Hello, gentlemen. How are you today?
Adrian McCoy: Not too shabby. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and a little less magic is on the street thanks to us.
Greyson Westfield: Sure, what he said.

TS: Let's start with an easy one. How would you describe Bex?
AM: Hah! That's an easy one? I guess I'd say she's tough.
GW: Definitely tough. But she's multifaceted. Sometimes she can be... sweet.
AM: She'd kick your ass for suggesting that.
GW: Oh, absolutely. But she has her moments. She's the kind of woman who'll nurse you back to health after you take a bullet. Then she'll kill you for scaring her.

TS: I'm telling her you said that. So, next question: Do you believe in love at first sight?
Both [in unison]: No.
AM: I think there's lust at first sight, and maybe even a connection. But love, real love, takes time to grow. I met my wife almost 20 years before we got married. We had a spark, but it took both of us maturing and growing--both separately and together--before we really fell in love.
GW: How can you love someone before you ever even have a conversation?

TS: Good points, both of you. Now then, what's your favorite pastime? Besides work, that is.
GW: There's life outside of work?
AM: I was just thinking that. Alright, my favorite pastime is... being married.
GW: *fake gag* You're such a sap.
TS: Aw, cut him a break, Grey. It's only been six months. Plenty of time left for him to become disillusioned.
AM: Ha ha. You're both regular laugh riots.
TS: Grey?
GW: Well, I play football with the boys every once in awhile.
AM: Hey! You've never invited me to play football with you.
GW: Chill, man. I haven't played since we got back.
AM: Oh.
TS: Anything else?
GW: *shrug* Sometimes I draw too.

TS: What your favorite movie?
AM: True Grit. The original one, with John Wayne.
GW: Surprise, surprise.
AM: Hey, I know quality. What's yours?
GW: I don't watch movies.
AM: That's such bull. I've watched movies with you!
GW: Alright, alright. I like The Usual Suspects.
AM: Don't lie; you have a thing for French cinema.
GW: I told you that in confidence!

TS: Alright, last question. What is the first thing you notice about a woman that you find attractive?
AM: Eyes. Haha, Grey's got pretty eyes. *pinches GW's cheek*
GW: *swats hand* You're such a weirdo. I notice... I don't know. A woman has to be special to catch my attention. She's got to have... she has to have the It factor. I like a good rack or a nice ass as much as the next guy, but it's more than that. Deeper.
TS: *tearing up* I'm going to tell Bex you said that too.
AM: And this is why it's so obvious that you like French cinema.

X is for Xylophone (Flash Fiction Friday - 4/27/12)

This picture may be some other bell instrument, like vibes or something. I'm not a percussionist, and I don't know all the differences.

So... turns out xenophile didn't mean what I thought it did, and I lost my X word. Then I thought about stealing Leigh Covington's X-Men post, but I decided against it. Then I flipped through the dictionary looking for random X words. Then I decided on xylophone.

*This story is fiction. Any likeness to events occurring in other marching bands are entirely coincidental (in other words, we never bullied the xylophone player in my marching band. A good rule of thumb is never tick off someone who carries small mallets).

Have you ever been a xylophone player in the marching band? Talk about the loser of the losers. You don’t even march! Me, I stand in the middle of the field, marking time and pounding out the same eight notes over and over because no one cared enough to write a real xylophone part. Not that anyone can hear me because we’re too poor to afford a sound system. And not that anyone’s looking at me when there’s a chick with a flaming baton right by the bleachers.

Well, they did tell me when I got into high school that I’d be uncool if I joined marching band. On the bright note, I might as well be invisible to the rest of the school. So at least I don’t get shoved in a locker like the tuba player (and, seriously, seeing a 5’8”, 200-pound guy get squished into one of those tiny lockers is like watching someone try to shove water back in a sink).

On the not-so-bright note, the other band geeks give me a hard time instead. None of them are crude enough to try shoving me in a locker (some of them could do it though; marching while carrying a baritone saxophone gives you muscles, dude), but they have their own ways of bullying. Catty comments, frank discussions about my not-so-prolific sex life, things like that. Stupid stuff.

I asked the director if I could switch to a different drum. You know, the kind you carry. But he told me the xylophone is a very important part of the band, and I should be proud to play it.

Proud. Like I’m freaking Mozart making a piano sound like God’s own song.

Hell, I’ll be proud if I can just get through the rest of this year.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for the West Wing

*happy sigh* The West Wing.

This is and will likely always be my absolute favorite show that ever aired on television. A few have come close, but nothing else has ever had that perfect combination of wit, drama, intellect, and warm-fuzzies. No one writes a show like Aaron Sorkin can, and even he hasn't written anything else like this one.

I didn't watch The West Wing when it originally aired. I was a bit too young in 1999 to appreciate it. But I started watching Studio 60 in 2006, and I fell in love with the fast pace, pithy dialogue and wonderfully complex characters. When my mom told me it was written by the guy who'd written The West Wing, I decided I had to give that a shot.

Needless to say, I loved it.

I could write a litany on this show. In fact, I did write several papers on it in college. I loved being a television major... though one of those papers was for a religion class. It was on how The West Wing was an allegory for the Bible. My professor said he'd never had anyone take on the topic quite like that before.

It was also The West Wing that first got me interested in (and aware of) politics. I followed the 2008 presidential election like it was my job (which it kind of was, since I was working at a TV news station, but it was local news so that's not really the point). I had a map that I colored in on election night. I tracked every story, watched every debate, and inundated (badgered) my friends with news articles about the candidates everyday in an effort to get them to vote on Election Day.

But I also gained a lot of respect for government. I know (really, I do) that The West Wing doesn't always accurately reflect government. I know that there's a lot of corruption and that the US government has many, many problems. But I also believe (perhaps naively) that most politicians really are acting with the country's best interests at heart, even if we don't always agree on that. And I believe that changes to the system are made by those who show up, so I have respect for the people who do. I could never do it, but I do my part when I can. I'm a big proponent of, "No matter who you vote for, make sure you vote." I've voted in every election since I turned 18 (except the primaries because NJ is a closed election, and I don't want to declare a political party), and I voted absentee for most of them. It bothers me a lot when people don't vote. Especially women, since we had to fight so hard just to have the right.

I think I'll stop here ("But you didn't mention the directing!" the little voice in my head shouts. "Or that Rob Lowe is shirtless in the first episode! Or all the other actors and actresses who are so amazing!"). Seriously, though, if you have some free time, you should check out this show. I watched all seven season in about twelve weeks, and while I know that most people don't have the time to just sit and watch that I did at that point in my life, it's still amazing and worth whatever time you can give it. It doesn't even matter what your politics are (the characters on the show are Democrats, by the way). I think you can appreciate the underlying message even if you don't agree with all their decisions.

I'll leave you with just a few of my favorite quotes (alright, I just found random quotes... they're all my favorite):

  • Josh: 68% of people think foreign aid is too high, 59% think it should be cut.
    Will: You like that stat?
    Josh: I do.
    Will: Why?
    Josh: Because 9% think it's too high, and shouldn't be cut! 9% of respondents could not fully get their arms around the question. There should be another box you can check for, "I have utterly no idea what you're talking about. Please, God, don't ask for my input."
  • President Bartlet: The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.
  • Man: Uh, Miss Moss? Are you aware that studies clearly show the word 'north' leaves the impression that this state is cold, snowy and flat, significantly depressing tourism and business startup.
    Donna: With due respect, sir, your average temperature is 7 degrees. Your average snowfall: 42 inches, and a name change isn't going to take care of that.
    Woman: We enjoy roughly the same climate as South Dakota. We took in 73.7 million in tourism revenue last year. They took in 1.2 billion. They have the word 'south'.
    Donna: Also Mount Rushmore.
  • Donna: A lot of them, their judges spoke at their sentencing about the harshness of what they had to impose.... Scrutinize away. You tell me? Do we toss out Daisy Aimes, mother of three... had a boyfriend who stored a kilo in her closet. She's done eight years and is facing eleven more. That's longer than rapists and child molesters get.... I don't see a list anymore. These are people.
  • Josh: Ten words: "I will make America's defenses the strongest in the history of the world."
    Leo: "In the history of the world?" When we say that, are we comparing ourselves to the Visigoths, adjusted for inflation?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for the Voice vs. American Idol

I need to start this post by saying that I'm a television snob. I prefer my TV shows to look like The West Wing (that's tomorrow's post). I really don't like reality TV. I feel most of it is a waste of my time (I really mean no offense by people who do watch it. I can think of a great many things I do that are a waste of time. Reality TV just isn't one of them). But for some reason, I can't stop watching the singing shows.

I started watching American Idol back in the first season, back when Kelly Clarkson was really the only viable option, Simon Cowell was brutally honest (but not vicious), and Brian Dunkleman co-hosted with Ryan Seacrest. I love music, and I love television, and the combination (while certainly not new or unique to American Idol) was an instant winner. I missed a few seasons while I was away at school, but I'm still watching.

Same thing with The Voice, though it's only been on for a season and a half. It came out when I was at my lowest Idol point (when Pia Toscano got voted off last season, if anyone cares) and filled the hole. As a show, I like The Voice better. The judges are critical without being mean (mostly), the focus is on talent rather than gimmicks (mostly), and I can watch Blake Shelton and Adam Levine banter all day long (er... mostly). But at the end of the day, I watch American Idol the day after it airs (recorded, so I can fast-forward through two hours of Ford commercials), and I'm a week and change behind on The Voice.

Idol is a more compelling show. You follow the same group of contestants week after week. In The Voice, the contestants are broken up into teams, and each team goes only every other week. So in the early rounds, you can go four weeks without seeing a repeat contestant. It's harder to pick the contestants you want to cheer for when you can't remember who's already gone. Instead, you're cheering for the coaches because they're the only ones in every episode. Don't get me wrong; I like the coaches. But they already have successful careers. Why would I cheer for them?

That said, the cast of character on The Voice is significantly more diverse and interesting. It's where every singer who doesn't fit that perfect mold goes. Some are overweight, some are gay, some ordinary, some have weird voices or weird noses or weird hair (well, okay, they have that on Idol too). They aren't pretty little perfect popstars. As somehow who would never fall into the pretty little perfect popstar mold, I appreciate this.

The biggest problem I have with both shows is that they take forever. You don't need two hours for six people to sing. Or an endless look into the contestant's sob story. Or the increasingly painful Ford music videos. Or Christina Milan in the Social Media Room (or whatever they call it). They could wrap everything up in an hour, and I could have two hours of my week back.

Do you watch either of these shows? If so, who are you rooting for (I'm torn between Skylar and Hollie for Idol. For The Voice, it's Chris Mann all the way)? Any major beefs with them? Any other reality shows you like that I'm not giving a fair chance?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unwind (Teaser Tuesday - 4/24/12)

This was going to be my political post. I had a couple rants stored up, and I was thinking about trying to get a debate started in the comments section. And then I decided... I really didn't want to introduce politics into my blog. I respect everyone's opinions (or at least their right to have them), but I tend to get... heated when I talk about politics, like I imagine most people do. It doesn't always bring out my best side.

But Teaser Tuesday worked out perfectly anyway, since one of the books I'm reading (because I refuse to carry the ARC of Tin Swift around in my backpack where it can get wrecked) is Neil Shusterman's Unwind.

But first, I had a revelation last night that I need to share. As some of you know from following me on Twitter, I had a few copies of my most recent draft of Capitoline Hill printed up yesterday.


I know I had Staples print it. I know it's not done yet. I know it doesn't even have a cover page. But, you guys, that's my book. And it's all pretty and bound and 388 pages that I sat down and wrote.

I have to admit, I got a little giddy. I was holding something that was entirely mine, something I created from the ground up and slaved over until it was (almost) right. I've known I wanted to be a published writer since about the time I figured out that books were written by people. There was never really a point in my life when this wasn't the endgoal, the number one thing on my bucket list. But it truly became clear to me yesterday that in less than a month and a half, I'll (hopefully) be sending this book--roughly a year of writing and 20+ years of hopes and dreams--to agents. I've never been closer to holding a real copy of my book than I am now.

It's a bit of a rush.

OK, and with that, I'm going to move on to Teaser Tuesday. I'm currently reading Neil Shusterman's Unwind.
In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them. Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

And 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 is:

It was real, it was pretend, and that combination made it all right--it made it safe, like performing death-defying acrobatic tricks above a safety net.

She holds on to that unexpected feeling as the two of them catch up with Lev, and move toward the frightening prospect of civilization.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Triathlon

I decided last summer that I wasn't enough of a masochist. Sure, I cause myself some emotional and mental pain, but I was missing the physical pain. That had to be remedied. So I thought, "Hey, what better what to really break your body than train for a triathlon?"

This seemed to make sense for several reasons. 1) As of last summer (the last time I was in the pool), I was able to do the half-mile swim with not too much trouble. 2) I've never biked 15 miles, but I've done half that without being winded, so how much worse can the second half be. 3) I hate running.

Hm, one of these things is not like the other.

Let's be clear here: I'm not in good shape. I know it sort of sounds like it because of those other things I mentioned, but I'm really not. Until just recently, I got out of breath running up and down the stairs. I consider a good walk to be going from the bedroom to the bathroom. If I have to do exercise, I choose to ride my bike because at least I'm still sitting down (and, yes, that's my logic).

But I have been exercising 3-5 days a week for about five years now, enough to be considered habitual (or whatever the appropriate term is). Granted, my idea of a workout is stopping at the gym after work and hopping on the elliptical for a half hour, but it's more than nothing, which makes it something. And I recently started doing Couch to 5k three days a week to work on this pesky running thing (I start week 3 today. That means running for 3 minute blocks. Send happy thoughts).

Plus, I think it'd be really, really cool to be called a triathlete. I wish I could honestly say that was less than half my motivation for doing this.

The downside is that, of course, I'm kind of constantly sore now. And I sleep a lot better (probably because my body is permanently on the brink of exhaustion), which means less time for plotting future novels before bed. And I don't think I get any of that endorphin rush that other people talk about from running.

It's not really exercise I have the problem with; it's individual exercise. I like my exercise competitive, preferably with an edge of danger. As in racquetball. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping quite like a small missile flying at your head (or into your head). I prefer competitive sports like that to the kind that require self-motivation (like, well, triathlons).

But, seriously, how cool would it be to be called a triathlete?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Flash Fiction... Saturday?

In all the hubbub surrounding yesterday's URL redirection thing, I completely forgot about Flash Fiction Friday. I was on a hot streak today, editing Capitoline Hill (I plan to have it ready to send to beta readers tomorrow), so I decided to go with a snippet from my MG novel, Angels, especially since I won't get to post anything about it during the A-Z Challenge. I'm only on chapter 6, so it's still pretty early, but I'm liking the way it's turning out so far.

Short plot summary:

Zachary Taylor Middle School has an infestation of demons, and Mallory Shea is the only one who can see them. Well, Mallory and about 500 guardian angels, that is.

And here's a little snippet:

Did I think that real demons were going to show up at the eighth grade dance at Zachary Taylor Middle School? No, not really. And judging by my classmates’ reactions, everyone seemed really excited about the angels and demons theme. Girls were already starting to plan their costumes.

So I plastered on a big smile when Veronica glanced my way. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Veronica doesn’t know about my secret. She also doesn’t know she has a guardian angel. A pretty ugly one, actually, but I wouldn’t tell her that. If I were ever to tell her anything about this. She’s nice though, the angel. Iona. And she really loves Veronica, so I couldn’t ask for anyone better to guard my friend.

“What do you think?” Veronica asked as we walked back to Micah, standing awkwardly on the outskirts of the crowd. “Should we go as angels or demons? If we go as angels, we’ll be considered goody-goodies. But if we go as demons, everyone will thing we’re sluts.”

Micah made a face. “I hate that word,” he whined, but Veronica ignored him. Veronica usually ignored him. She wanted to be cool, and Micah was definitely not cool.

Behind her, Garwin made a face at me and made a little halo with his hands over his head. I barely resisted the urge to laugh, knowing that no one else would get it. “I think I’ll be an angel,” I said, and Garwin shot me a thumbs-up, complete with a goofy little dance that almost had me giggling again. He was a comedian, my angel. “I’d rather be a goody-goody than a slut.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Redirecting, Real Men, Religion, and Other Controversial Issues

I made a lot of mistakes when I started blogging. Not big things--definitely not things that might haunt me for the rest of my life--but they say the devil's in the details, right? One of those mistakes was trying to be cute with my blog name. The original name of my blog was One DV Rebel's Guide to Writing. It was an homage to Stu Maschwitz's The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap. It was kind of an inside joke with friends, but at the time, I didn't think anyone would really be reading my blog.

So when I decided I wanted to start using my pen name and getting more involved in the writing community online, I changed the name to Chock Full of Words. I'm quite fond of this. But since I'd already started linking people to my blog, I never changed the URL from And for the last two months I've been thinking about that. Without the rest of the joke, "writing guide" seems pretentious. It's also only tangentially related to the actual blog now.

So this morning (which I swear was not deliberate because it's "R" day) I decided to set up a new URL, using my name, and redirect people from the old link. I expected this to take about ten minutes. It did not, especially since I made, like, 400x more work for myself by creating a new blog and trying to make it look like the old one, instead of just changing the URL of the old one and using the new one (with the old URL) as the redirect. If it sounds confusing now... yeah, it did then too.

The only thing I'm not sure of is whether you'll actually see these posts through your subscription reader. I think I did everything right. I set up a Feedburner account (you can see my feed at I added the URL to the Post Feed Redirect URL setting in the old URL. And now... I think you should see this. I guess we'll find out. (It might in your best interest to update your subscription to this feed instead of the old one. Also, if you know of something I'm doing wrong with the redirect thing, please help.)

So originally this post was going to be about Real Men, but the feminist side of my brain objected on the grounds that I wouldn't like it if a post like that was written about women. It was right. My views on Real Men are superficial and shallow and born from too many hours spent watching American Idol. So I'm not going to write that post.

Then I was going to write about religion and racism and a whole bunch of other controversial issues. But honestly, now that Blogger's beaten the will to type out of me, that seems like a lot of work. And I already have a post scheduled that will have to do with politics (because apparently I'm a glutton for punishment). So I'll put this one on the back burner for a little while.

So that was my morning. How was yours? Happy Friday!

P.S. Though I'm not going to post my whole rant, this is how Real Men should sound when they sing.

This one makes me cry every time.


Darius Rucker is both what a Real Man should sound and look like.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quinn

Lucky I picked a "Q" name for Cap's MC, huh? That showed wonderful foresight on my part.

Quinn Dunlap is a 25-year-old werewolf from the Capitoline Hill Chronicles. She's evolved a lot since I first thought of her. Originally, she was a slacker, middle-of-the-pack wolf with no aspirations of anything bigger. It took me a long time to realize that what I thought was her being a slacker was actually insecurity... and that was even worse. I've never written a character who comes across as meek and mild as Quinn does. Normally my heroines are loud, take-no-prisoners women, who always speak their mind and and kick ass and take names.

That's not to say Quinn isn't tough, but she's tough in a more subtle way, which I've never written before. She's the kind of girl who gets overlooked sometimes, especially consider her brothers and sister are all much more outgoing than she is. She's flawed in a lot of ways, but she steps up when she's needed, and she's got an inner strength she doesn't realize.

It's been an interesting ride, writing a MC like Quinn. I think she's making me a better writer, but there are some times when I really thought about strangling her. She just doesn't have a lot of confidence in herself. But I know things about her future, and I know that she should be more confident in herself. So we've had some... disagreements.

I interviewed her once for the I'm Hearing Voices! Character Blogfest back in February, so this is a follow-up interview. Having planned the next three books in her series now, I think she might have some more answers for us (though this interview still takes place at the beginning of the book).

  1. What do you do for a living?
    Until a couple months ago, I worked in Human Resources for an investment company in north Jersey, but now I'm a Guardian for the Mid-Atlantic Werewolf Pack.
  2. Are any other people living with you? Who are they?
    Hah! At any given time, I live with between 15 and 40 other people. There are five houses on Capitoline Hill. In my family's house, it's me, my parents, my brother Carson, my sister Aly, and the triplets. My cousins live in one of the other houses, along with my best friend and the other bitten wolves, and our Alpha and his family live in one. The Dansens live in the fourth, and the fifth one is empty right now.
  3. Tell me about your parents. How well do/did you get along with them?
    I think my parents and I were closer when I was little. I was kind of a daddy's girl, but we grew apart as I got older. He's more interested in helping Carson become Pack Alpha someday. My mom is... a typical mom. Nothing bad, nothing special.
  4. What was your birth order? How many siblings did you have? Older? Younger?
    I guess technically I'm the second-oldest. Multiple births are pretty common among werewolves, and I'm a quadruplet. Carson's older than I am, and Liam and Aly are younger. And then the triplets are ten.
  5. What makes you happy?
    Hanging out with my friends. Going for a run. Catching a deer with my Packmates. The simple things.
  6. What is your greatest fear?
    Snakes. No, just kidding. I wish snakes were my greatest fear. Um, I guess disappointing people. I don't want to let anyone down.
  7. What would you change about yourself if you could?
    Do you have an hour? ... I think I'd like to be more decisive. And braver. Definitely braver.

CH is the first book I've ever written from one POV (though in the second draft I expanded it to include some chapters from a second POV). I think, as a result, I'm more invested in Quinn than any other character I've written. She's the driving force behind this series, my answer to characters like Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson or Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom or Kelley Armstrong's Elena Michaels. But at the same time, I didn't want her to be a cliche. I think, if nothing else, I succeeded with that, but only time will tell, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pen Names and Privacy

I’ve really been looking forward to this post. I’m hoping to get some opinions/insight from you guys, so please, the more advice, the better.

For those who didn’t know, Tobi Summers is a pen name. I made the decision early on that I wasn’t going to publish under my real name. I have an unusual name, the kind of name that there’s only one of when you run a Google search. So every result that pops up is me. That can be kind of cool (I actually really love my name), but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. I have to be extra-careful what goes online, not just because I’m terrified someone will find me and kill me (and, oh, there’ll be more on that later), but also because any future employers who choose to perform even the most basic internet search will receive all that information about me.

So I have an almost obsessive fear of putting personal things online. Or rather, identifying information online (because clearly I have no problem writing down my personal thoughts and feelings). Writing the other day that I live in New Jersey made me break out into a cold sweat. I combed through that post to make sure even that information was a vague as possible. See, we got the internet when I was in middle school, and I was conditioned from a pretty young age to NEVER GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION ONLINE. People would find where you live and stalk you and kill you. Obviously, keeping my information offline is no longer even remotely a possibility, but every time I put my real name or address into some website, I can hear the voices of every adult I’ve ever known yelling at me.

This has led to some interesting results. At this point, I actually have three personalities online. There’s my real one, which I try to use as little as possible. There’s Tobi Summers, which I’ve started using just in the last few months and which will only be used for writing purposes. And then I have a third identity.

I set up my super-fake alias in high school, back when it was still VERY WRONG to give out personal information online. Originally she just had an email address (Hotmail, because that was the cool thing to have). Then eventually she needed an address. And a phone number (the Pizza Hut in Beverly Hills). And a birthday. And a photo (which I pulled off Google images and probably needs to be updated). In the decade or so since her inception, she’s almost become a full-fledged person. Which is equal parts funny and creepy as hell.

So, right, bringing this back around to the pen name. Because I’m so focused on protecting my identity and my privacy, I have to wonder if there’s ever a point where my real name will become part of my writing life. Like, if I go to a conference, will I introduce myself as Tobi? I mean, that’s the only name almost everyone on here knows. Do I put it on my business cards? If I started talking to other writers in private, at what point should I tell them my real name? Does Emily Post have a guide for this?

Most of the other writers I know don’t use pen names, or they do the J.K. Rowling/E.B. White initials thing. There are probably websites devoted to this topic, but I haven’t looked hard enough yet. Just figuring out how to submit to magazines under a pen name was difficult enough. I’m half-tempted to see about getting Tobi a social security card and a driver’s license.

I have a feeling a lot of the advice will be things like, “Do what feels comfortable,” and that’s cool, but if there are other people who use pen names, what do you do? Or what have you heard about others doing? Like I said before, the more advice, the better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Omega

So it's Teaser Tuesday again, which is good, because I hadn't thought of anything good for O. I'm still reading Dead Iron from last week, so this time I'm doing a book series I absolutely love: Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series. It's three books and a novella so far, and I think I've read them all at least a half dozen times (except the last one, since it just came out in March). For awhile I was stuck in a loop where I'd get to the end of the last book, then immediately start over because I wanted to read "just that one part" from the novella. I love everything about it: the characters, the relationships and how they grow, the plots (especially in the most recent one), and the way it's intertwined with her other series (the Mercy Thompson series). I highly, highly, super-highly recommend it to fans of urban fantasy, particularly werewolf books.

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.

Even though the picture is from the last book, my teaser is from the novella that started the series off:

"Tell me about after the attack."

She didn't need to tell him about how Justin had stalked her for an hour, herding her back from the edge of the preserve every time she came close to getting out. He only wanted to know about Leo's pack.

...and now I'm thinking about reading it again, despite my ever-growing TBR list and the fact that I'm midway through Dead Iron, and I kind of really want to know how it ends. So all of you should go read it instead, so I can live vicariously through you.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for New Jersey

I had an interesting weekend. I went to a wedding in northwestern New Jersey. If you've never been, apparently (according to my date and his friend) you can use northwest Arkansas as a reference. Honestly, I didn't even know places like this existed here, but I was humming the song from Deliverance while the GPS took us the long way back to the turn I missed.

I was born and raised in NJ, and I've always known that there are many different sides of it. There are the cities (Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City), which are the places people think about when they think of New Jersey. There are the beach towns. There are parts in southern New Jersey that remind me shockingly of the Deep South (Georgia, Tennessee, etc.). And apparently there are farms and rolling hills (yes, both) in western New Jersey.

NJ gets a bad rap. I can't tell you how tired I am of telling people, "No, it's nothing like The Jersey Shore." In fact, almost none of them are actually from New Jersey. So it's not all GTL, and it's not all oil refineries and petroleum, like Sandra Bullock claims either. In fact, if you do a Google image search of New Jersey, those pictures don't even show up.

There are places in New Jersey that are breath-taking. Drive down the Garden State Parkway in the fall, and you'll see what I mean. There are places that are so typically suburban you'd think you were in Leave It to Beaver. And, yes, there are places with smokestacks and ghettos and really gross industrial complexes. But they don't dominate the state.

The Capitoline Hill Chronicles are set in the Pine Barrens. Here was my logic: I'm from NJ. I know about NJ. Therefore, my book should be set in NJ (because you should write what you know). My book is about werewolves. NJ is the most densely populated state in the country. Where could werewolves live here? Of course, in the Pine Barrens. Hey, werewolves could be the Jersey Devil! This is perfect.

Subsequent monologues would prove that I actually knew nothing about the Pine Barrens. Turns out, living in one place in NJ doesn't make you an expert on the whole state. Who knew? Still, I did research and consulted Google Maps a lot, and I think I did a good job with it.

What I do know about New Jersey are the people, and I think that helped. My characters are from NJ or the surrounding area (NYC and Philly, for example). They're northeastern snobs, who don't believe anyplace else is as nice as where they are. They curse, often in creative and colorful ways. They're sarcastic and bawdy and occasionally drunk, and they're unabashed about it all. These things may not be unique to NJ, but they're definitely characteristics of New Jerseyans.

They do not--not even once in 400 pages--utter the phrase, "Yous guys."

I've been to 22 different states, some for a vacation, some just passing through, and I'd pit New Jersey against any of them, corrupt politicians and all (and not just because my state could totally beat up your state). I just wish more people could see what I do when they think about it.

These aren't my pictures, but they are pictures of NJ.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Man's Best Friend

Many of you have heard me talk on Twitter about Dog. Dog is my two-year-old rescue pup, a regular Heinz 57 mutt. Seriously, we had a DNA test done on her. They were only able to figure out half of what she is. The rest came back "unknown." My personal belief is that it includes cat, sheep, pig and possibly some human.

My first dog died a couple years ago, about seven months before we got Dog. Olderdog was a very sweet, very well-behaved watchdog. Perhaps a little aloof sometimes, but she always knew when you were upset. When I had a lymph node removed one summer, she stayed on the bed at my side until I felt better, protecting me.

Dog is very sweet. Dog is most definitely not very well-behaved. Dog is mischievous (Dad says Dog is Trouble). Not long after we got her, we got pizza. We left the pizza box on the kitchen table while we ate in the other room. When we came back, we found Dog had opened the pizza box, pulled out a slice, closed the pizza box, and eaten half the slice. Other things she's eaten or chewed include: four chocolate chip cookies at Christmas time, a stolen chicken breast (twice, same breast both times), half a candy bar, at least three (probably more) boxes of gum, several pens, more paper than I care to think about, sticks, a battery, my Nook (most the cover, thankfully), and pretty much any type of food we deign to give her. She's particularly fond of carrots (and, you know, meat).

Dog is also needy. We're not sure what happened to her before we got her. We know she came up from one of the Carolinas where she was apparently a free-range dog. We also know she lived with a family for six months before they accused her of biting their toddler. When they found out she'd be put down for that, they began to backtrack. Dog's trainer said she expects pain sometimes, so maybe she was hit? She was definitely neglected. We can tell because she has an unquenchable need for love and affection. I think we do a pretty good job giving that to her.

There's something about this dog that makes every person we pass want to pet her. I don't know if she exudes some type of desperate "love me love me love me" pheromone, or if it's just that there's such a sweetness to her, but even people who are normally afraid of dogs want to come over to her. And don't get me started on her effect on other dogs. She's like dognip!

We've had her for a little over a year now, and she's come so far since we got her. When we brought her home, she wouldn't leave the family room. She just couldn't seem to turn the corner at the doorway. Now she wanders around the house like she owns it. She wouldn't let us even touch her paws or come near her with a towel. Now she hands me her paw to wipe off when she comes in from the rain. She's still skittish sometimes, but she's learning to trust us. And, in doing so, she's wormed her way so far into our hearts that we'll never be able to let her go.

What's your best memory with a current or past pet?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lessons Learned (Flash Fiction Friday - 4/13/12)

Today's flash fiction is brought to you by the letter... L (and Carrie Underwood)!

She’d made a lot of mistakes. She knew that. And even when she was clinging (desperately, hopelessly, horribly) to the notion that most of the mistakes were his, she knew she held some blame too. And maybe her blame was worse. Deep down, she’d always known that someday he was going to screw up and hurt her. But he never would have expected it of her.

The fall off a pedestal hurt more when she was that high off the ground.

Their last screaming match had ended with both of them crying. “I can’t do this anymore!” she’d tried to shout, though it only came out as a whisper.

“I can be better,” he’d pleaded.

But she’d shook her head, tentative at first, then harder and more certain than ever before. “You say that every time. And then you make me feel like shit all over again.” Her nose had burned from the tears, and she’d had to swallow a knot in her throat before she could continue. “I don’t want to feel like shit anymore.”

“Just give me another chance.”

She’d hesitated, and maybe he’d known he’d won then. But he hadn’t smile, not even when she’d said, “One more chance.” She’d held up one finger and shook it. “One more. Then never again.”

He would do it again, she knew. And again, she’d cry. Again, a small part of her would break. Again, she’d find a way to hate herself.

Maybe next time she’d learn her lesson.

I sort-of-kind-of thought of the theme for this one while I was listening to a Carrie Underwood song on the way home from work. "Lessons Learned" is one of the most inspirational songs to me (it's not nearly as dark as this flash fic). It's all about learning from your mistakes and keeping your life moving even if you have some regrets. Take a listen if you've got some time:

Happy Friday the 13th!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kinfolk

This is not my family. We're probably about this cute though.

F was already taken, but I wanted to spend at least one post talking about my family. Family is incredibly important to me, and I have the best one in the world (I know a lot of you think you do, but, sorry, you're wrong. It's mine. ^_^).

My family's not very big. I don't have any first cousins. I spent a lot of time complaining about this as a kid (okay, I still do), but it also worked out well for me, since my brother and I are the only grandchildren on both sides. In other words, we're spoiled. But we know it, so that makes it alright.

I think not having too many people made us closer to the ones we have though. Instead of having a kids' table and an adults' table at holidays, we all sat together. My brother and I were treated like adults. We were included in the conversations, and, while things were explained to us, they were never dumbed down. We were expected to ask questions when we didn't understand things.

Not having cousins also meant my brother and I were pretty close (still are, in fact). He's only a few years younger than I am, and when my friends were complaining about their siblings, I was hanging out with mine. I remember spending an entire summer with my brother and his best friend, riding our bikes to a convenience store and buying candy and soda, then over to the elementary school where we hung out on the stairs by the fire exit. All summer.

I think I'm one of the lucky ones. I don't have any scarring memories from my childhood (unless you count the fact that I was never allowed to climb out my window and sit on the roof like I so desperately wanted. Or the six years of braces). I'm close to my parents. We ate dinner around the table with the TV off at least 4-5 times a week, and, though we eat now in front of Jeopardy!, we still eat together most nights. We talked--not just about our days and our lives, but about politics and religion and all the serious subjects in the world. And about The Simpsons and old movies and all the fun subjects too.

And we love each other and support each other so much that I'm always surprised when I hear about families who don't. I wouldn't be half the person I am without them. I certainly wouldn't be half the writer I am. Or maybe any of the writer, since my parents were the first ones to tell me I was any good at it and the first ones to encourage me to keep at it. And they're still the ones who are front and center, cheering the loudest for me to keep going until I achieve all my dreams.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jeopardy!

My nerd type is brainy, and I like to show it off. A TV show like Jeopardy! was created for someone like me. It's not about appearing like the smartest person in a room. It's more that I have an unquenchable desire for knowledge. I love to learn, always have. I like knowing at least a little bit about the major issues that come up in the world today, and I love knowing as much random trivia as possible (there are some A-Z blogs--like Jaycee DeLorenzo's--that are really adding to my trivia knowledge... and I love it!).

My parents and I watch Jeopardy! almost every night while we eat dinner. It's one of the highlights of my day. We shout out the answers on top of each other. We laugh when we're blatantly wrong, and we cheer when we get the difficult ones right. If there were ever a Family Week on Jeopardy!, we would dominate.

Sometimes when I get a particularly difficult question right, I'm surprised to realize where I learned the answer. Most of it comes from television shows. I can't count how many answers I've gotten right because I've watched every episode of the West Wing at least three times. The other day I got a question about kendo right because I used to watch Digimon.

I love when knowledge picked up unintentionally becomes important.

I'm having a particularly bad week with my Jeopardy! page-a-day calendar (none right out of the first three questions, and a missed last week's Final Jeopardy! about Glee (for shame!)). But don't ever mess with me about Children's Literature. I own that category.

Are you a Jeopardy! fan?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Iron (Teaser Tuesday - 4/10/12)

I had a lot of trouble coming up with an "I" post, until I remembered that it's Teaser Tuesday. Then it fell into place perfectly.

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.

One of the books I'm currently reading is Dead Iron by Devon Monk, the first book in her Age of Steam series.

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man must fight to hold on to what is left of his humanity…

Although the devisers have civilized the east with their contraptions, civilization hasn’t tamed the frontier that bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides. Cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death, he’s a hard man for hire. But when a trio of miners offers him the possibility that his brother may yet survive, Cedar isn’t going to haggle for payment. All he has to do for them is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers from the realm of the Strange.

The Holder is in the hands of Shard Lefel, a dandified railroad tycoon who’s come to Hallelujah, Oregon, promising a civilized tomorrow. But what Cedar cannot know is that Lefel is an ancient Strange banished to walk this land for centuries. Now nearing the end of his sentence, Lefel is desperately searching for a way to fend off his own mortality—and the Holder may be the key.

In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only thing a man can count on is his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he’s going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all….

And here's the teaser:

Did he change back into a man but have no conscious thought and sleepwalk his way through half a night? When, exactly, did he find the time to fold his clothing?

Happy I Day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Harry Potter

I was in middle school when I started reading Harry Potter, a little while before Goblet of Fire came out (in fact, I'm pretty sure I went to the midnight release of that one). It wasn't the first book series I fell in love with, and it definitely wasn't what started me reading, but it had a HUGE impact on my life. It was the first time I realized just how much books could transcend the page.

I lived, ate and breathed Harry in high school. My best friends read the series too, and I can't even count how many hours we spent analyzing all the details. We knew what all the mythology meant, and we had a notebook full of predictions for how the series would end (almost none of which came true). One of my friends denied the ending of the fifth book ever happened; I denied the ending of the sixth book. We went to midnight releases for at least five movies and three or four books (we did not, however, wear costumes. That's where I drew the line, though it was more about laziness than embarrassment).

Harry Potter was also my first real introduction to fanfiction. Before that, I'd dappled in Digimon fanfiction (don't judge), but I didn't become serious about it until I got involved with the Harry Potter scene. Guys, I've written a lot of fanfiction, and I have no regrets. Fanfiction taught me a lot about writing and a lot about the world. My first introduction to erotica was through fanfiction, as was my introduction to hatred and homophobia. I learned how to shrug off critiques and how to take constructive criticism. I learned about writing on a schedule because I had people who were anticipating new chapters (I was not good at this part. I was very not good at this part).

And I learned that there were other people who were as nerdy as I was. They weren't just online; I met some real life friends who wrote fanfiction too. Other Harry Potter geeks who weren't content just to wait for the next book to come out. Our stories were elaborate and often only tangentially related to the series, and they consumed hours of our time. Just last week, I found notebooks I'd set aside for a five-book fanfiction series I'd wanted to work on (Hermione/Snape, which was not my normal ship... I was Ron/Hermione before it was cool).

I think almost everybody has a story about Harry Potter; it's that influential. If we're the sum of everything that happens to us, I can't even begin to fathom what my life would be now without it. It's a book series I still look to as an example of what I could achieve with a lot of talent, a great story, and a little luck.

What are some of your Harry Potter memories?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Grammar

Please excuse me for my inevitable geek out here. When I was in elementary and middle school, grammar was beaten into my head. Every time we had English or Language Arts, we learned about some element of grammar. I could diagram sentences by the eighth grade, and I still know what a participle and gerund are. I use semicolons, and not because I'm pretentious, but because I want the space between two complete sentences to be shorter than a period. My own mother makes fun of me for using multi-syllabic words in text messages.

As a senior in high school, I was the president of the Liberal Arts Society (a.k.a. the Creative Writing Club). One of my responsibilities was editing the submissions. It was shortly after beginning to do this that I started giving grammar lessons at each of the meetings (surprisingly, we didn't see a dramatic drop-off in membership when I did). One freshman's stories particularly stand out in my mind. This was a boy who'd been through the exact same school system as I had. Yet he submitted stories to me that contained things like: "Will you throw the ball" Billy asked?

It still makes me twitch a little.

Look, I'm not saying my grammar is perfect. I have no problem ending a sentence with a preposition, though sometimes I'll correct myself. I don't freak out if a comma is in the wrong place because comma rules are often subjective. I understand that when you're having a conversation, sometimes your brain works more quickly than your mouth, and you don't always pay attention to exactly what you're saying. Sometimes the point you're trying to make is more important than the way you make it. And I definitely understand that traditional grammar rules go out the window when you're writing dialogue because people don't speak so formally.

But it also saddens me when I read articles or hear writers talking about how proper grammar just isn't that important. Of course it's important. Words are our instruments; we can wield them with precision, or we can wield them carelessly. When it's used properly, no one appreciates grammar. But use it wrong, and everyone will know. A misplaced comma can be devastating.

I have a friend who's a linguistics major, and he tells me that grammar is made up, and therefore it can change with the times. So the iPod commercials calling it the "Funnest iPod ever" aren't wrong; they're ahead of their time. Eventually language will evolve. Which makes sense, of course, since we have words today that didn't exist even a decade ago (Muggles!).

But it's also wrong because we have to have rules for grammar. Without them, communication falls apart. The written word is so powerful partly because of grammar, because it can be understood by anyone. Not only that, but writing is an art form. There's poetry even in prose, music in the ebb and flow of every sentence. Periods, commas, semicolons, colons, question marks, exclamation points, ellipses... they all contribute to the song. I subconsciously tap my foot when I'm reading, and it took me a long time to figure out that I'm tapping to the rhythm of the sentences. Use grammar improperly, and it's like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz--all the characteristics of a real person, but lacking the heart.

Even when you're breaking the rules--and there are definitely times to do that--do it deliberately. Do it for a purpose, to prove a point or to get the rhythm right or to make the reader feel something. If you think of your story as a song, the words and punctuation are like the sheet music. Read it out loud and hear the way it sounds. Does it sound that way because you think it should, or will everybody read it like that? Have you given them the guidelines so they can hear it too?

If you've made it this far and you aren't considering finding me and sending me for a psychological evaluation... well, thanks. I know most people, even other writers, don't get this passionate about commas and quotation marks. But even though I love music, I don't get that passionate over drum beats and guitar riffs like a lot of other people either. So maybe I'm just doubly weird.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Flash Fiction Friday - 4/6/12

Like I said a few days ago, this first week of A-Z blogging worked out perfectly. So F is for Flash Fiction, and here's one for you. Claire Legrand has been posting a lot about The West Wing on Twitter and her blog, so between that and the Republican primary race, I've been thinking a lot about politics. This story reminds me a little of Primary Colors for some reason. Hope you enjoy.

“Listen, I just don’t care. Get it done, and get it done now.”

I bristled at the tone in his voice, but there was nothing I could say. He was the campaign manager, and I was nothing but a lowly intern. It didn’t matter to anyone else that I had an IQ of over 150 and I was a chess grandmaster. It didn’t matter that I could out-strategize Bobby freaking Fischer. Here, I was the low man on the totem pole.

Buckley’s strategy was stupid, plain and simple. But a hundred years ago, he’d gotten some dark horse candidate elected President out of Who-Gives-a-Damn, Maine, and now he was hailed as the campaign hero of the 21st century. After all, who cared that he’d won less than 12% of the elections since then?

So I had 100,000 copies made of our candidate’s brochure, which was complete with his high school prom picture and a testimonial from the guy who owned the corner store when he’d been a kid. Buckley insisted this would “humanize” him, make him more relatable to the common man. That was bullshit, of course. Our candidate was an inheritance millionaire out of Orange County, California. The only thing that would make him relatable to the common man was if the common man suddenly won the lottery.

Like I said, I’m the low man on the totem pole, so no one listens to me. But Buckley’s going to wish he had when we lose by 20 points or more.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Editing

I have to be honest. Capitoline Hill is the first book of my own that I've ever edited, despite being the fourth one I finished. In the past, I've always been the love-em-and-leave-em type, but I really want to make this relationship work. I'm willing to put in the extra effort because I think we can go far together.

But this editing thing? Man, it's just... a pain in the ass. I've never felt quite this level of frustration and elation mixed together. Every once in awhile, I'll hit a scene that's really just well done, and I'll think, "I knew I could write." Then I'll finish that scene, and it's back to, "I suck. Why would anybody read this crap? And how could this whole kerfuffle of stuff take place in two days?!"

Timeline seems to be the biggest problem for me, followed by continuity. The entire book spans about two weeks, which is just not enough time for everything that happens. But I seem incapable of just having periods of downtime that I could gloss over (two weeks is expanded by the way. The original draft took place in less than a week. I need it to be more like two months).

Some of the continuity problems came from doing a rewrite and copying and pasting parts of the first draft into it. I can deal with those. Just like I can deal with the awkward word choices and the adverb-mania. But I really need to start keeping a character chart or something to prevent issues like, "His voice was higher-pitched than I'd have expected"/"[He said in] a deep baritone." And at some point I should probably commit to exactly how long Quinn's been back home. In one chapter it's two weeks; in the next, it's over a month.

I sat with a reporter's notebook and filled four pages with comments while I was re-reading CH, which range from mundane word choice notes to angry insults (at myself). They're actually a bit amusing to read, though I imagine they'll be considerably less amusing to fix.

What's your editing process like?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Defenders

Oh, Defenders. The bane of my existence. (I say this affectionately on the heels of one of the best days of writing I've had in awhile.)

Defenders is a project I've been rolling around in my head for a long time. Well, okay, really more like a year, but that's a long time for me to sit on an idea without writing it or discarding it. It's about a city called Rafcate, which was attacked and nearly wiped out 150 years ago. To prevent this from ever happening again, they imposed a mandatory military service for every witch, mage, werewolf, demon, berserker and fairy over the age of sixteen in the city.

The story follows a team of girls who are in their first year of service: Laurie, Shawn, Kali, ZJ, Alexi and Meg. Not long into their training, a dead body shows up on their doorstep with a message. This is just the cap to the pretty weird things that are happening all around. Laurie and the team are determined to figure out what's going on, no matter what the cost.

I'm roughly 1/4 of the way through the first draft, and I have to say, it feels like I'm pulling teeth. Slowly. Without Novocaine. I don't know if it's just a weak plot, or if I'm really not cut out for complex world-building like this, but whatever it is, I'd love to fix it. And I feel like I spend a lot of time whining about how difficult writing this is for me.

But I'm not ready to abandon it yet. First of all, I love the concept, maybe more than I ever have with one of my ideas before. Secondly, I know bits and pieces of book 5 (the final book in the series), and I know that if I can get there, it will be awesome. Once I realized this was Laurie's story instead of the team's as a whole, pieces of the end fell into place for me. So maybe, if I can ever get there, that part might be easier to write.

The other thing is that I've already invested a lot of time in this. I actually did world-building! I never do world-building. I'm much more likely to wing it and hope everything falls into place eventually. And every time I think about that, my resolve to finish this book grows. I love my characters. I want to tell their stories.

And I want to prove to myself that I don't give up just because it gets a little difficult to write. I've already done that, many times, to the point where I thought I'd never finish anything again. For four years after the collapse of my third novel attempt I started and abandoned projects on a regular basis. I'm afraid that if I fall back into old habits, I won't be able to pull myself back out.

So my question is: what do you do when you just can't seem to get anything write for a story? At what point are you willing to put it down? Are you the kind of writer who just keeps pushing until you finally break the wall, or does putting the story down help you refocus on it? And when is it okay to admit that a project just isn't working?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Capitoline Hill (and Teaser Tuesday - 4/3/12)

This first week of the A-Z Challenge worked out perfectly, since I wanted to use this week's Teaser Tuesday to give you a teaser of the first book in my Capitoline Hill Chronicles, since that's what I'm currently reading and all. I'm fixing some continuity issues before I send it to my beta readers.

When she'd left five years ago, Quinn had honestly never thought she'd be moving back to Capitoline Hill, a decidedly not hilly compound in New Jersey that's home to the Mid-Atlantic Werewolf Pack. Sure, all she'd had was her brother Liam, her terror, and the small sliver of pride she'd barely managed to hold onto, but that had been more than enough to start a new life for herself.

But now Liam's gone, and she misses her Pack and the security she used to find with them. It's time for her to accept that sometimes you have to go home again, no matter what the saying is. And maybe, maybe, it's also time for her to get over some of those fears that drove her away in the first place. So she signs up to be a Guardian, a protector of the Pack and the Alpha. But when an assignment results in her bringing home a stray, Quinn finds out that everyone, even her Alpha, is afraid of something. And sooner or later, those fears always come back to haunt you.

And here are the rules for Teaser Tuesday:

  • 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.

I'm giving you a little more than two sentences because I'm really excited about it:

We’d just made it back to the main level, the Loner safely locked up, when the door burst open. I tensed for an attack, then heard Eli’s voice.


His voice was high and tight, and Carson and I both spun to look in his direction, fear mingling with concern in my mind until I could taste the adrenaline in the back of my throat

He was carrying a girl—Brittany, judging by the long blonde hair. She wasn’t unconscious, but close to it, her eyes narrowed to slits and her mouth gaped half-open. But the more troubling part was the two-foot long wooden spike impaled in her chest.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Blogging

I've been a "blogger" since 2009, when I started my TV review blog. I started this blog in October 2010. But until this year, my idea of blogging was posting once or twice a month and occasionally reading something that someone else posted. I think I had one follower until February, when I decided it was time for me to actually start developing an online presence.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I've only really been doing this for two months, but in that time, I think I've learned so much more about writing than I had in years before. Suddenly I'm exposed to so many of the different styles people have, and I'm talking to fabulous authors who are all different stages in their writing. It's been amazing for both my writing and my personal growth.

And maybe more than that, there's acceptance. This is a place where I fit, a place where there are other people who understand that the inside of my head is scarier and weirder than any real place. People who don't give me that look when I tell them I was talking to a few of my characters yesterday (come on, you all know the look). Don't get me wrong; I have friends IRL who understand it too, but not very many.

So, thank you to everyone who's made me feel so comfortable and accepted here in the last few months. Because of you, I have a new drive to work on my writing and to send my (soon-to-be) completed MS out into the world to see what it can do. I'm better focused and motivated because of all of you.

And I'm kind of a sap sometimes. Sorry about that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Accepting Challenges

Happy A-Z Challenge, everyone! I've been really enjoying some of the other posts.

I don't have a theme for my posts, but today's is about Accepting Challenges, a.k.a. setting goals and reaching them. This is the first year I've ever set writing goals for myself, the first year I've ever taken myself seriously enough as a writer to attempt it. At the end of February, I did a wrap up to see how I did with my goals, and I'm going to do that again for March. My February goals were:

  • Continue writing 1000 words/day. I didn't actually hit my 22,000 word goal, but I was on track to when I decided I was going to take the last week of March off of writing and focus solely on editing Capitoline Hill. So while this goal wasn't completed, I still consider it a success.
  • Edit 50 pages of Rosetta (now Capitoline Hill) per week. Well... I didn't do that. But I did edit over 250 pages during the month of March, completely my second draft/rewrite. So... I think that counts as a success too.
  • Get 50 followers on my blog and Twitter. So close. I currently have 63 followers on Twitter and 46 followers on my blog. Just a few more to go!
  • Continue to submit short stories and flash fiction. I didn't submit any short stories this month, but I have been writing flash fiction every week. I could have done better with this one, but I could have done worse.

And now, new goals for April:

  • Continue writing 1000 words/day, half of them for Defenders. I'm not going to lie, Defenders is being difficult. So was CH when I started it, but somehow it feels worse this time. If I don't force myself to write it, I'll never get through the tough patch. So I have a monthly goal of 21,000 words, and I want at least 10,000 of them to be for Defenders.
  • Send a mostly edited draft of CH to my beta readers and finish rough draft of query letter and synopsis. I'd really like to start querying CH in June, so I want to keep making forward progress on this.
  • Get 75 followers on Twitter and 60 followers on my blog.
  • Submit at least two short stories to magazines and/or contests. Continue writing flash fiction every week.
  • Complete A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I don't think any of these are out of the realm of possibility, though doing the A-Z Challenge and writing 10,000 words for Defenders may wind up being a bit challenging.

What are your goals for April?