I survived.

So, I had the brilliant idea to do  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again last month.

And, I won!

I’d dance like Meryl, but I’m so damn tired. My brain melted into a pile of goo the second I’d typed out The End. December will hopefully be a quieter month, even though I have two novels to edit.  Editing is slightly easier than writing, but I still I loathe it.

My NaNoWriMo novel, One Last Heist, turned out brilliantly. It had all the twists and turns I’d hoped for, and some I never expected. It’s now in the hands of my capable betas, and I won’t worry about it for a little while.

My relationships with friends and family appear to have survived the madness. I did have to bribe my dog with many treats to forgive me for being chained to my desk. =) NaNo can be a trying adventure with words.

This year the words flowed far better than they have any other year. I’ve participated in the November madness several times. Each one feels a bit different. One Last Heist definitely had my muse’s full attention, and I didn’t necessarily struggle with my daily goals with the exception of one day early in the month.

I can’t wait to share Mack & Toshiro’s story with everyone next year.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through NaNo is I can’ only manage it once a year. I’m never going to be an 8k word a day author.  I barely manage 800 to 1000 words on an average day. It’s more about keeping myself steadily making progress.

But once a year in November, I indulge in a bit of insanity, and some of my best work has come from it. (After the Scrum, The Caretaker, and now One Last Heist.)

And now, I can take a nap…several naps.

Did you take part in the NaNo madness? How did you do?

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Oh, A Squirrel.

Or, the biggest distractions to my writing–and how I attempt to combat them.

Note I said attempt. I’m not always successful. Okay. Fine. I admit that I’m rarely if ever successful, but maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

My biggest distractions are…

1. My Dog – I mean. Could you deny this face?

How do I combat it? I don’t. Look at her face?

2. The internet.

You could combat it by turning off the computer. Do I? No lol. The best way I’ve found to avoid internet distractions is to get away from my computer and write by hand for a while.

3. Hot men on the internet.

I suppose technically this is part of #2, but I thought it deserved its own point.

4. Video Games.

I LOVE video games. LOVE. I’ve owned just about every type of gaming console from an Atari to an Xbox. The easiest way I combat the distraction is to use them as a reward–if I reach my writing goal for the day, I can play the game.

5. My husband.

This is actually not a distraction but an interruption. My beloved husband LOVES to stand in the doorway to my office to chat with me. He talks…and talks…and talks.  I love him, but sometimes:

What are your distractions and how do you combat them?

A Prayer for the Lost.

Or, as I like to call it, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) fever strikes again.

I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo for several years. The insane task of writing a 50k novel in 30 days calls to me like a siren. I’ve won it all but one of the times I’ve taken part. You definitely run the risk of completely losing your mind when you try it.

I’ll also admit that not every author works well under the pressure of it.  I certainly couldn’t do it every month–once a year is more than enough. All my other novels have taken anywhere from two to six months to write.

So, in honour of the impending doom, here’s a prayer for the battered muses of all who suffer through November madness.

Dear Goddess of NaNoWriMo,

May you keep our pens moving, our coffee cups full, and our ideas flowing.

Keep our foreheads safe from hard surfaces.

Allow our commas to wind up in the correct places.

May they’re, their, and there cease to torment us.

May our loved ones not give up on us.

Help our word counts to grow.

And when the clock strikes midnight on November 30th–let our novels have hit at least 50,000 words.

Ever yours,

Your thankful and fearful novelist. 

Are you taking part in NaNo this year? Have you plotted out your ideas or are you pantsing it? I’m going for a mix of pantsing and plotting. I wish you all luck.

 

*I may have played a little too much Assassin’s Creed: Origins this weekend and gotten a bit caught up in the prayers to Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. lol

Sloppy Seconds.

Or, why I love secondary characters. lol

If nothing else in my stories stands out, I hope what does is the depth and diversity of personalities. The goal is always to make readers want to know more about the characters—and not only the main couple. The word is so rich and diverse so should the books we write.

I write a quirky collection of characters.

Love writing them.

Love reading them.

L.O.V.E. Them.

One reason why I often include bits and pieces of personalities of people that I’ve met or observed is it adds authenticity. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, but I’m always drawn to the odd ones. I enjoy building those types of people into my stories.

One of my favourite examples of brilliant secondary characters comes from The Botanist and The Royal Marine. Both are stories where I introduce a group of retired military men and women into The Sin Bin series. They’re an interesting bunch who never shies away from making their presence felt.

For example:

“That explains why I found him underneath his desk snoring like a busted engine and cuddled up to an empty bottle.” Lily propped her feet up on his desk. “I thought you two stopped overindulging after that time in London when you were in your twenties.”

“Lils.” Hamish had tried to block out the memory of getting so wasted that their clothes, wallets, and even socks had been nicked off them. Lily had rescued both of them before their commanding officer had found out. “What happened to being sworn to secrecy? Hadn’t we decided to chalk that up to youthful enthusiasm and stupidity?”

“Stupidity being the keyword. Okay, okay.” She sipped her coffee; her green eyes alight with pure amusement. “So, Earp tells me you met someone last night.”

Some of my other favourite characters are Francis’ grandmother, in After the Scrum. She’s a riot. Her personality shone through from the very beginning.

Dr. Gen who makes her first appearance in The Wanderer is another example. She initially started out as someone who I only intended to be in a few chapters, but her personality brought her to the forefront in The Caretaker.

Genevieve turned her gaze away from Taine and smirked at Freddie. “You’ll thank me later when you’re thinking more clearly.”

Freddie choked on his last bite of spring roll. “Yes, thanks. Twmffat.

“I heard that, Whittle,” she called over her shoulder. “You will thank me later—with a bottle of wine. You know the kind.”

The pets of The Sin Bin are definitely shining stars in their own right. From Speedy the hamster to Ganesh the cat to  Zeus the Yorkie. They bring humour and life, filling in gaps. In many ways, Aled’s plants are equally as important—at least to him.

“I keep telling you not to mock Ringo. You’ll hurt his feelings, and he’ll stop growing.” Aled brought in a tray with two unmatched mugs and a plate of chocolate treats. He set it down and pointed around the room at the various flora. “Mr Navy SEAL, you’ve already meet Ringo, Paul, John, and George. Have I not introduced you before?”

“And you called me bizarre?” Wyatt accepted the Frodo mug, resigning himself to the dubious pleasure of hot tea, and studiously ignored the tightening in his jeans at the brush of their fingertips. “Do you always name your plants?”

“Friends have names.”

For Aled, his plants are important enough that it seems wrong not to treat them as characters in their own right.

What do you love most about secondary characters in novels?

Truth and Trauma in Fiction

In my upcoming release, The Botanist, one of the main characters, Aled, suffers through a massively traumatic event, which results in him dealing with PTSD. It’s a short story and romance, I wanted to do my best to show how much it can affect every aspect of someone’s life. A bit of reality in the midst of a fictional romance.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.

It’s important to show the gamut of emotional experiences in a story. Life’s never all good or all bad. Even a romance needs a dash of realism, but it’s equally important to have a happily-ever-after or at least, a happy-for-now.

I try to never shy away from showing disabilities, neural diversities, or similar things. It’s not easy. You have to put a lot of work into respectfully getting it right. I’m definitely not perfect, but I do my best (and I have brilliant betas, editors, and a publisher who help).

Aled is one of my favourite characters. Even though his story is a short one, I think you get a real sense of his struggle and who he is. He’s suffered. He’s suffered greatly, albeit it briefly, but he doesn’t give up.

He’s stronger than he thinks.

For more on PTSD, particularly with military veterans, check out: http://www.mission22.com

 

Things I learned while writing The Caretaker.

As the gif above suggests, I’m stuck in jury duty this week (or at least for today if I’m lucky enough to be dismissed early). I scheduled this blog post early, so you have something to enjoy while I’m suffering in the sheer boredom of sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers. In any case, I thought I’d share a few things I learned while writing Freddie & Taine’s love story — The Caretaker.

  1. Welsh cursing is as creative as it is bizarre.  For example, Coc y gath (one of Freddie’s favourites) translates to The Cat’s Willy.
  2. Welsh cheesecake contains no cheese. 
  3. Sharpies can be used in fascinatingly naughty ways.
  4. Maori folklore is both vibrantly rich and fascinating.
  5. Nurses deal with heart breaking situations on a daily basis.

I think I learn something new with every story I write even if it’s accidental. I find myself falling into the trap of research. You know, you google something, and that leads you to about seven other things that have nothing to do with what you were trying to find in the first place.

Do you often find yourself learning new things while reading (or writing)?

 

10 Ways to Avoid Book Launch Exhaustion

Maybe it’s just me, but book launches are highly stressful and exhausting. Since I couldn’t figure out what to blog about this week, I thought I’d come up with a list of ways to help avoid exhaustion and also how to stay sane during the release of my latest romance novel, The Wanderer.

So, here are ten ways to avoid stress and/or relax when you are stressed out:

  1. Tea. Lots of tea. All the tea. Particularly if it’s Republic of Tea’s Lemon Chiffon Green Tea. So Good.
  2. Bath, a long soak can do wonders.
  3. Indulge in a good book, this week I was reading some free flash fiction.
  4. Naps. Don’t judge. Naps are brilliant. 
  5. Write. Sometimes, the best way to relaxing during a book launch is to continue working on your next project.
  6. Video games. My current favourite? Mass Effect Andromeda, hands down, the best game that I’ve played in ages.
  7. Indulge in binge watching on the telly. What am I watching lately? Hunted, Lock Up, The Great British Bake Off.
  8. Avoiding Goodreads, nothing more stressful than reading reviews lol.
  9. Get time away from the computer.
  10. Music. Nothing releases stress like singing loudly and badly. lol

What about you? What do you do to alleviate stress? If you’re an author, do you find book launches to be stressful?