The Trick-or-Treat Love Sucks Giveaway Reaping

On Sage’s counter sits a cauldron once full of sweets to tempt little children to her door, but currently filled with names of people vying for a copy of Love Sucks, bookmark, and flashy, blinky necklace.

Just as in Hunger Games, some folks have many entries into the contest, and some just have one.  Who will be reaped from the cauldron?  Let us see now.

Pulling out a name and we have…

Sabryna Brooks

Next is:

Bryson McCrone

And our final winner is:

Susan Weiner

Congrats to the winners!  I will contact you to find out where to e-mail the book and to ship the bookmark and necklace.  (ETA: Don’t forget to tell me the format you need when you tell me where to send the books)

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!  Less than 4 hours to NaNoWriMo.

Lots of love,


Writing Rituals (#NaNoPrep)

Before I start, just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a copy of Love Sucks. Minimum entry is a simple comment, telling me your favorite Halloween read, but you can get extra entries by tweeting and posting on Facebook and the blog.

Back to NaNo.  Not everyone feels the need to have a ritual for writing, but a lot of people find it very helpful to get into the right mood or to motivate them.  It might be psychosomatic, but having something that keeps you in the right mindset can be very beneficial when it’s NaNo time.

A ritual might be a place where you have to write.  This can be great if you’re there because it’s a total experience: atmosphere, sounds, lighting, activity around you, amenities if needed.  But it can also be bad if it means that you have difficulty writing away from that location, and depending on what your month looks like, that might make hitting 50K difficult.  If you’re used to writing at your favorite cafe, and then you can’t get there a lot in November, it may hurt your motivation.  But if you can get there, prepare for an awesome day of writing, right?

Some people don’t need a place, but like certain stimuli around them.  I prefer having my headphones on.  They don’t need to have music streaming through them, to be honest, but as noise-reducing headphones they can separate me enough from the real world to concentrate on the world that I’m writing about.  However, I do like to play the Doctor Who soundtrack while I write.  For me, this is the perfect writing music.  I also get a lot of mileage out of any album that I know so well that I could potentially sing along to it without thinking about the words and notes, because those are the albums I can enjoy without focusing on it, thus freeing me to focus on the words I’m writing.  Other people cannot listen to music at all.

Some people like to have something to drink or to snack on while they write.  This can also serve as a good reward system.  When I wrote DownLoad in 2007, I had a box of 50 suckers.  I got one a day while I wrote, and because it was long lasting, it was satisfying.  When Borders was open, I would wait until I wrote 1K, then I could get a javanilla milkshake and continue writing while I drank it.  I have a friend who, after much searching, has found that if she has a certain candy when she’s ready to sit down and write, it will put her in the writing mindset.

Do you find that a certain ritual helps get you in the mindset for writing?  Are you trying anything new this NaNo to get into the mood?

Lots of love,

Making Time (#NaNoPrep)

One important part of preparing for NaNo is clearing time in your schedule to write.  Of course, some non-writing events have to exist.  If you have a day job, you’ll have to work it unless you are lucky enough to have some time-off to spare.  If you have kids, I suppose you might have to take care of them in November too.  And maybe there’s that TV show or sport you just can’t miss.

I have choir on Monday nights, several scheduled (and unscheduled) work outs, plus work, though I did manipulate my schedule to have that first day off by working the preceding Sunday.  But, overall, I’m going to have times when I can’t write.

But there are some ways to clear your schedule around those things, and you can prepare them now in this last week before November.

  • Chores: Laundry, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming.  The more of these you can get done at the end of October, the less you’ll have that nagging feeling that you need to do them.
  • Cooking: It’s pretty hard to cook ahead for 30 days, but if you make something on Halloween (in between the candy) that has a lot of leftovers, you’ll get a good start on the month, at least.  Then you can decide if you’re going to spend the rest of the month eating pizza, ramen, and Panera or not.  That decision leads us to…
  • Shopping.  Know that you’re going to need something later in November?  Buy it now, if you can.  Christmas shopping can be started in October, and then with that head start, you won’t feel so panicked about leaving the rest for December.  Plan your groceries for things that are easy to make and that sit well for the month
  • Clearing the air:  If you’re like me, nothing puts a bigger damper on your writing high than being mad about real life issues.  If something’s been building, November is not the time for it to explode.  It may be scary, but working out real world problems in this last week of October–as much as they can be anyway–could save your November concentration.
  • Voting:  Why would they put the election right at the beginning of National Novel Writing Month?  What were they thinking?  Well, there’s always writing while in line (I did that in 2008), but some states have early voting, so I took advantage of that this time around.

That’s all the prep I can think of for now.  Do you have any things you do in advance to avoid real life distractions in November?

Lots of love,

The Forums (#NaNoPrep)

Aren’t the NaNo forums awesome?  Wait, you haven’t checked them out yet?  Well, now’s the time!

Once November hits, the forums become this black hole that sucks away all your writing time.  No kidding.  You think you can stop in and check out that dare thread because you’re stuck and suddenly you’ve spent 3 hours reading about the fiction fairies you can adopt or helping someone else name their superheroes or filling out character surveys.

And it’s fun.  But you’ll be mad at yourself when you get to midnight and realize that you only wrote 37 words all day.

But I’m not saying avoid the NaNo forums altogether.  No, go to them now.  Read the Dares threads and tuck away some dare (or 20!) to use when you get stuck in November.  Fill out the character surveys and learn all sorts of new things about your characters before you start.  Read the adoption threads and adopt things.  Help others plan.  Ask for help you need.  Hang out in the chatty threads for your genre or age group or region.  Nominate yourself or others to 30 Covers, 30 Days.  Read the synopses there to see what others are doing.  Check out what events are going on in your area.

And have fun!  Because that’s what NaNo is about.

What’s your favorite part of the forums?  I’ve made a whole novel using dares (36, I think) once, so I have a fondness for that thread, but I love the 30C30D thread the most.

Lots of love,

P.S. One week left to enter the Trick or Treat Love Sucks giveaway.  That means one week to Halloween and one week left to prepare for NaNo.

Researching (#NaNoPrep)

Researching?  What is this researching thing?  We don’t need no stinkin’ research before NaNoWriMo.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I tend to do my real research when I come across a need for it mid-book.  Very rarely do I say, “I’m writing a book set at a ranch, let me do all my research on horses in the months preceding it.”  I use horses because I did some recent horse research for a chapter book I wrote a few months ago.  It was very minimal, as I was just refreshing myself on some terms I already knew.  In that case, it didn’t take too much time away from my writing.

But in NaNo, having to do even a little research can detract from that all-important word count, so it’s good to get it in October or before, if you know what you need.  (Let’s not forget that pantsers might not even know what they could possibly research)

This year I was planning to do a different novel from A Paranormal Bromance, and it was going to require heavy research.  I searched for books, I watched documentaries, I looked for credible information and personal accounts on the internet.  Then I changed novels, so that research will have to hold for another time. But I certainly know people who do the heavy research where they read non-fiction about most of their novels, even interview people for them.  I really admire those people and their dedication, not to mention their creativity to make a novel out of this research.

But here’s how I usually research in October.  I read fiction in the genre I’m writing or about the same subject or for the same age group.  Last year when I was writing my chapter books, I read a lot of chapter books (and low MG to see the difference) to prepare myself for writing for that reading level.

This year I’m writing that paranormal bromance.  And I haven’t decided if it’s a paranormal romance but without lust between the mains or if it’s simply a contemporary fantasy with a humorous title.  Because these are two totally different things.  Even if I go the contemporary fantasy route, I still might use some tropes from PR.  So here I am reading ghost stories (because one of the mains is a ghost).  Oh, darn, ghost stories in October.  But I’m also reading paranormal romances, which are totally not my usual thing, as research.  What tropes do I want? Do I want any? Should I have a similar tone to PRs? Is there a certain formula that I can either follow or parody? Should I stay far far away from anything PR at all?  So that’s the kind of research I’m doing now.  But that’s generally the kind of research I do the most, and no matter whether you’re a planner or a pantser, whether you’re someone who does heavy research about the subject or not, I suggest reading books like yours (or potentially like yours)

What kind of research do you do leading up to NaNo or any other books you write?  Do you do any at all?  Do you find yourself researching mid-book like I sometimes do (or even during edits)?  Have you ever wished you had researched something before you started?

Lots of love,
P.S. Less than two weeks left to enter the Trick-or-Treat Love Sucks Giveaway.  This also means less than two weeks to Halloween and NaNo!

Plot-in (#NaNoPrep)

It’s a special Lots of Love Thursday this week.  I love my SNI (shiny new idea), I love plot-ins, I love preparing for NaNo, and I love listening to my iPod on random (more on that later).  Unrelated to this post, I’ll throw in that I love Halloween movies that I’m watching, I love having new episodes of Glee (although I’m caught up now), I love starting Christmas shopping early, and, hey, I even love this R&R I’m doing on Taylor-Made.

I decided to continue with the #NaNoPrep posts through October (in preparation for November when I might post, you know, once).  I had a request for some plotting tips.

I’m going to start off by saying that every writer is different and what works for me is not necessarily what will work for you.

One specific question I got was “where should you plot?”  And the answer, for me, is everywhere.  But more specifically it’s anywhere that doesn’t require my mind to be dedicated to the task in front of me (like I’m making phone calls all week for work, and that’s hard to plot through).  If I’m reading, writing, listening to something with a plot (audiobooks/tv shows on my iPhone), or talking about something not novel-related, I can’t plot.  I can plot and sing, though.  I do a lot of plotting while driving, while counting bugs in the lab, while working out, while getting dressed in the morning, and of course while I’m listening to music.

Of course, keep in mind, I am not an outliner.  Someone who needs to sit down and write their plot down is not going to be able to do so while driving.  In those cases, I would choose a location that inspires you or the same places where you like to write.

I do have very informal “outlines” of a sort.  You all know by now how much I adore making soundtracks for my novels.  At the beginning stages of plotting, I do a lot of listening to my music on random, “auditioning” each song for a place on my soundtrack.  Once I start building up potential songs, I audition them further by playing that playlist while I consider my characters and whether those songs really fit a plot that works for those characters and that concept.  I start to shape up the playlist into something resembling a soundtrack.  A ha, the novel will proceed in the same order as these songs.  Except, that never works out; songs get removed, replaced, added, moved all over.  Even though it’s sort of like an outline, it’s a very flexible one.  Sometimes I remove songs I adore because they just don’t work for how the characters feel or act.

Last year I also plotted using post-it notes.  In this case I wrote down a bunch of plot points I wanted to include in the stories.  This was flexible just like the soundtracks, but I prefer the musical “outline.”

There’s one more place that I like to plot, and that’s a physical NaNo plot-in.  I started going to the plot-ins that my area was having two years ago.  At the very least a plot-in can give you an opportunity to tell people about your book and watch them be all supportive.  If you have a plotting problem, you can share it and see if anyone has an answer.  My favorite plot-in game is to give everyone 10 post-its or notecards, and give everyone 10 minutes to write down up to 10 (or more if they want) ideas for dealing with your plotting problem.  For example, for the Trouble books, I had some ideas for how Trouble could cause Bex problems, but I wanted to see what others might come up with.  Everyone wrote down a ton of ideas for trouble he could cause, and it was so much fun.  For my Twelve-Days-of-Christmas-themed novel, I had 4 “gifts” that I had no ideas for, and there were four people there that day.  Each person wrote down 10 ideas for how I could deal with that gift.

Another plot-in game I’ve played has been to use a party game where you ask the attendees questions.  In a party, it’s meant to be a conversation starter.  But while plotting, your character is answering the question, and so you might learn something about them when forced to think about their answer to a question that might have nothing to do with your novel.  But in answering that question, you understand them better.

But even if you play no games, there’s always talking about your novel and working out problems out loud with people who might think outside the box you’ve already placed your novel inside.

So there’s my advice.  Plot everywhere you can, record your ideas any way that works for you, and go to plot-ins.

How do you plot for NaNo?  Does it differ from how you plot for other novels?

Lots of love,


Naming your Characters (#NaNoPrep)

Today is NaNo Prep Day.  Between that and a recent request for me to blog about how I name characters, I thought this was a good post to have now.  After all, you don’t want to go into NaNo and suddenly have to search for a character’s name.

Even pantsers often have characters prepared that dictate what happens in the novel.  These characters need the perfect name.  But how do you choose that perfect name?

My characters’ names come from all sorts of places.  Sometimes a character’s name just is there.  Those are nice days.  Taylor had a name before he had a character or a plot, as did Trouble.  That’s because the source of inspiration for both characters was also the source of inspiration for the concept and the name.  Some names just fit the character perfectly and you know it.  I named Evie in the shower the night I made up Hero/Villain and I knew her last name was Dark, although I fought it because, come on, Evie Dark?  But then once I had Apollo Eastman and Ace Starr, Dark had to stay to foil all that light.

Characters can be named after characters in other books, shows, movies, songs, etc.  Ace was named from a Doctor Who character, as was Rosie (from Rose).  While Justin in Love Sucks was not named after anyone (but Justin in Taylor-Made was named after him), his last name, Chase, was after a character on House.

Sometimes you can name a character after a person you know.  Or because you’ve always liked that name.  Mailee was named after a person who works at my company (I actually hadn’t met her, only talked to her on the phone, at the time I wrote LS).  A character now named Noah in TM was named Craig because I needed a quick and easy name and that one fit him.  Unfortunately, I know a Craig at the same place I know a Justin (met after I named LS’s Justin), so I had to change one of them and Justin is always going to be Justin.  Malinda was named after an author because I liked the name. You might find inspiration from actors’ or singers’ names.

Sometimes you have a certain idea for what kind of name a character needs.  It feels like a name that starts with B (Blake) or it needs to be a wholesome name (Rebecca, but then I was sold when I saw the nickname “Bex,” which was a perfect nickname coming from Trouble), or it has to be from a certain culture.  Naming books and websites can really help in this area.  Also if you want your character’s name to mean something (Blake, btw, means black.  And white.) or you need a popular name from a certain timeframe (Lawrence was pretty popular decades ago), websites are your friend.

For me, though, names often come from the world-building.  In AFTRLYF and HEVNSNT, my angels of death are always named after some mythological or religious name associated with death.  In DownLoad, the cyborgs were named based off two letters of the alphabet.  Since most ended with N, this made for convenient normal(ish) names.  Dean, Ian, Finn, Gwen, etc.  In In a Pear Tree, the elves are all named after Christmas- or winter-related things (except Shin’s family which is Jewish).

So that’s where most of my character names come from.  What about you?

Lots of love,
P.S. Two weeks left to enter the Trick-or-Treat Love Sucks Giveaway.  Don’t forget 🙂