Sunday, 16 October 2016

Creative Characters: Harriet & Dot

Writing Destination: Unknown
Creative Characters: Harriet & Dot

I got the idea for Destination: Unknown when I moved into the house I currently live in in August 2009. It is in an historic part of the town I live, and the area is it's own little village. Given that our house had been standing since 1840, I became a little curious with finding out who had lived here previously. As I dug into old census reports and other stories, I got the idea that if a character were to live here and be able to go back 100 years via some part of the house, then they could meet the person living here. I threw in a crime twist and the idea was born.

I already had a clear plan for the character living in 2010. She would be a young carer for her disabled mother. A bit of a loner, but having been burnt by people calling themselves her friends in the past, she didn't mind it all that much. Harriet would be fifteen, happy at school and happy at home. She would carry burdens that most fifteen-year-olds are lucky not to know, but she wouldn't be bitter or upset about it. Yes, she wanted her mother well, but at the same time, she didn't blame her, or feel she was held back. Their bond was strong, Harriet's father having abandoned the family before she was born, and in her eyes, she was doing what her mother would do for her.

Enter Dot, full name Dorothy. She lived in the same house, but in the year 1910. Her father was accused of murder and looked to be hanged for the crime. With her large family facing the workhouse, she looks for any way to prove her father did not kill his foreman. She appears to Harriet as a ghost one evening, and then the next day, as Harriet is looking out the kitchen window, a paving stone in her garden lights up. Harriet goes to explore and finds herself being sent back one hundred years into the past. She meets Dorothy face-to-face, with only enough time for Dot to plead for her help before Harriet is sent back to 2010.

The whole story flits between the present day and 1910, as Harriet gets to know Dot and her family and promises to help. The only problem is that time moves faster in 1910, where one visit a day apart is actually weeks, and time is running out for Dot and her family. Can Harriet save the day and rewrite history?

It was a joy to write, and I loved the way it crafted onto the page. I had a great time researching both my own house and the former occupants, to imagining how it would've looked in 1910. I was, at the time, working towards my degree and so snippets were written here and there. Time stolen away to look into 1910 and see where the story was going, and for once, I didn't actually have a clear idea of how it would end. When I finished it, I put it away for a few years and when I started the editing process, I was actually finding myself very immersed in the story. One of the few times I've been eager to get the editing done because I really did love writing, reading and editing it!

Be sure to grab yourself a copy either in paperback here, or in Kindle here.

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

September final tally for #JoWriMoGo

In September, I managed to write 16 chapter, 74 pages and 38,228 words! I am really pleased with this total as for the past few months I seem to have been stuck at 12 chapters - although nothing wrong with that! I'm hoping to aim for the same for October and see where it takes me!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Juggling Ideas - The Creative Process

Juggling Ideas

As I have spoken about many times before, I write more than one piece of work at once (pieces can be found here). I have been asked by a lot of people, writers and readers, how I manage to keep it all straight. I have a system that works for me and the way to do it is to make sure that your system works for you too. I am very aware that I am not unique on having more than one book on the go, and everyone has a different system.

For me it's simple, every month I write a big long to-do list. On that list are a set of four chapters - two for each book - and they are my must-do for the month. I also have a set of bonus chapters, again two of each book. For a long time I was lucky if I managed to get the usual chapters done. It was rare for me to get the bonus chapters. It was only when I made the decision to do NaNoWriMo in 2015, pledging to do a page a day rather than the usual 50K words. I managed to zoom through not only my usual four chapters, but bonus ones AND what I called "double" bonus ones. I made the decision to start my own challenge every month with the hashtag #JoWriMoGo and so far, it's working for me.

Now, what does this have to do with juggling ideas? I find that what works for me is to write two chapters of one WIP and then switch to the other and write two chapters of that one. I'm careful with my outlining - what George R. R. Martin refers to as a gardener and an architect - and I make sure that I have copious character notes. As I switch from one book to the other, I make sure to read the last two chapters so that I can familiarise myself with where I am in the story. So far, it's worked for me, but how do you find a way for it to work for you?

One way is to experiment with a similar set up to the one I use. In the beginning I worked with different amounts of chapters, but in the end I found three left me in a position where I had started a scene and then wanted to complete it, four was too many, the higher risk of getting caught in a writer's block that stopped both stories from moving forward. One chapter was too few. I would barely be getting started and then I had to force my brain to switch over to a completely different set of characters. After a bit of back and forth, I decided that two was the perfect number for me. It may not be for you so don't be afraid to switch it up until you find that balance.

Another way is to not have a pattern. I find that this way doesn't work for me at all. The basic idea is similar to the method I use, but it's a way to avoid writer's block on one WIP holding you up on the other(s). You write as long as you can and then when you are losing motivation for one, you switch to the other and do the same. It doesn't work for me because I like to move along at a similar pace and the two switch and two more means that I start, and finish each book at around the same time. This method lets you have more than two ideas on the go and it means that whatever mood you happen to be in, you'll always have a story ready waiting for you. If it works, more power to you!

And finally, there's a mix of the two. It sounds like it couldn't work by meshing the two ideas together, but I've heard that it's possible. You have a set number of chapters to write, but you have more than two works in progress. (It's possible to do that with my preferred method, but I think it would deter me with more than two). Whenever you sit down to write, you roll the dice or decide which one takes your fancy and roll with that. I can't speak to the effectiveness of this method as it's not one I can implement in my work, but I have heard that it works really well for a lot of writers, so maybe it turns out to be the one for you.

Overall, I have found that if you do plan to juggling more than one WIP at one time, you need to have some level of organisation to be able to keep track of what you're writing and when you're writing it. I am lucky to be someone who needs to be somewhat organised by nature. However, that's not a hard and fast rule, as I said, if you can make it work for you, then that's something to be proud of. As always, your mileage may vary.

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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Final Tally for August 2016

The final tally for August was: 54 pages; 25,969 words and 12 chapters written!! Here's to hoping September is even better!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Inside The Author: My Hopes & Dreams As An Author


When I first took up my pen and started to make a book out of the thirty-six pages I'd written at thirteen of THE FRIENDSHIP TRIANGLE, I wasn't really sure if it would be something I would continue with. I was nineteen and my world had just collapsed at my feet. I had been medically retired from the professional life and I had just been given not one, but two chronic condition diagnoses. Both of which carried a controversial stigma. I was facing that fact that I would probably never work a "proper" job again and faced with the rest of my life being sick, tired and unable to work, I didn't really know what I wanted to do.

After I finished editing and re-writing that book, I moved quickly onto writing BLACKOUT because it was an idea that I'd had for a long time, and I was desperate to finally get it out of my head and onto paper. I still didn't really know if this was going to be anything. I didn't know if I would ever fulfil my pipe dream of becoming a published author. I wasn't looking for fame and fortune, though it would have been nice, I was just looking for a way to define myself now that I no longer had a job. Had you asked me then what my hopes and dreams were in regards to my writing, they would have been simple: Find my way and see at least one of my books in print.

You see, I never planned to write more than those two. I certainly didn't have the idea for the DYING THOUGHTS series or anything beyond the two books I had written already. It wasn't until my best friend read both books and told me to pursue my "dream" that I started to submit BLACKOUT to publishers. I don't need to tell you what happened because you already know that. My point is that thirteen years ago when I started writing as a job, it wasn't a  lifelong dream, nor was it planned. Life handed me lemons and I decided to make some lemonade.

However, now that I'm thirty-four, have added a few more chronic conditions to the list and am pretty much a full time wheelchair user, I have different hopes and dreams in regards to my writing. I'm still not wishing for fame and fortune, though again, it would be nice, but I am wishing and hoping for a few other things. I could make a long laundry list of things I'd like to achieve as an author, but since I don't have all the time in the world and I'd like to actually write some more books, I'll give you a few of them.

When I first brought Tara into the world, I planned five books to see her to the end of her secondary education. I never planned to go further than that because I didn't know if there would be any reason to go past that age. After writing four books and starting the fifth, I realised that I wanted to see Tara into her first proper job. I wanted to put her through the education needed to end up working a job she would love. I'm about to finish the sixth book in the series and have already planned number seven, which still won't be the end. One thing I do know is where she will end her story, and I'm writing that book as we speak. My big hope is to finish her story, give the readers closure and give Tara a happy ever after, or at least enough of one for people to feel like she's okay in her world.

After BLACKOUT was published, I realised that I could keep writing, but I wanted a number to aim towards. I picked ten because at that point I had four written. With the five DYING THOUGHTS books already planned, I figured that five standalone books would complement them nicely. Although I have surpassed that in books written, if not completed, I would still like to get to a point where I have ten books published. With DESTINATION: UNKNOWN due out, bringing my total to nine, I don't have long to wait until I reach that goal.

As someone who has spent their whole adult life needing medications, mobility aids and equipment to keep me either mobile, breathing and out of pain, I want to show young disabled teens that it is possible to have a somewhat normal life. I want to give them people they can see that are just like them. Whether that's showing them my own life, or giving them characters they can relate to in fiction. It's important to me to be able to show people that just because our conditions are invisible doesn't mean that we are too. It's important for everyone to be able to see themselves in the media and that includes works of fiction.

Bug Books is my own indie label. One of my dreams as an author is to be able to develop it into a proper independent publishing house that will allow other writers, young and old to publish their own works. I know how hard it is to break into the publishing business and whilst it is easier now with the rise of self-publishing and small indie labels, it's still pretty daunting when you've never done it before. I want others to be able to learn from my mistakes and be able to launch their careers themselves with a helping hand from someone who has been there before. Before I do that, I have a lot more to learn, but every new hurdle I go over allows me to pick myself up and carry on with my day.

Okay, I lied, I do wish for fame and fortune, but who doesn't! ;-)

So, those are my hopes and dreams as an author. I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to all the blogs who have hosted me on this tour, as well to the people who helped to arrange it all and to you, the readers. I love my job, I'm sure you'll have picked up on that from my pieces along the way, but writing for readers is kinda in my job description and just as much as I love putting fingers to keys, I love hearing from readers too. So, drop me a line on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, come along for the ride on Tumblr or just check out my blog, I'm always up for questions!

Follow Joey here on her blog, on Facebook, or Tumblr to be sure to be kept up to date with the latest news regarding Joey and her books

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Inside The Author: Dealing With Writer's Block


I think every profession that deals with some kind of creative outlet has a word like "writer's block". For artists it's something, and for crafty people, it's something else. For me, and many writers like me, it's that darned writer's block. I've written pieces on it before my blog, but I thought it would be a good idea to visit again. Everyone who relies on some kind of inspiration to get their work done has their own tricks to get past the road block that it puts up in your mind. Here are some of mine.

I know that sometimes when I have difficulty moving past a scene or knowing where to go next with a story, that if I take a step back I am sometimes able to work it out and move past it. Sometimes that means closing the file on my computer and doing something completely different and other times it means just giving myself a few minutes to breathe. Once you've gotten more adept at working out which one you need to do, you'll find you're able to choose the better option for each situation.

Another big one for me is that when I'm about to fall asleep, my brain seems to go a million miles an hour and I find that I'm thinking about the scene I've been working on, or sometimes one that's coming up that I've been worried about. In the land between sleep and awake, I seemed to be better equipped to deal with the problems I'm facing in my writing. The only annoying thing about that is sometimes I think something through, go to sleep and then when I wake up in the morning I know that I found a solution, I just can't remember the bloody thing!

You have the chance to work through issues when you're doing other mundane things like emptying the dishwasher or watching a TV show that you're only watching because you have a nine year old who loves Animal Planet. While you're doing your daily exercise at the gym, or queuing up to pay for your shopping. All of these are great opportunities to let yourself think about different scenarios for your story. Sometimes all it takes is a little time to think, when you don't have to be concentrating on something else.

And finally, #4 - TRY DIFFERENT "DOORS"
You know how in some old movies or TV quiz shows they would have doors that someone had to choose and no one really knew what was behind each door. You can do that while blocked as well. Nothing is set in stone and so if you do decide to open door number one and find that it ends in a way that you don't like, nothing is stopping you from changing your mind and going through door number two. You have as many doors as you can think of and maybe you'll find that it doesn't follow your plan, but it takes you somewhere completely different and allows you to either get back on track or sends you down a different path.

So, yes, writer's block will happen. It will also drive you insane when you feel like all you have to do is write and you can't, however, once you get to grips with why you're blocked, there are numerous ways to think or write your way out of it. I know that there have been times that I have backed myself into a corner and then managed to get out of it after I've spent a few days, weeks or even months really thinking about it. Like the frozen lakes in Spring, everything has to melt at some point.

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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Inside The Author: What Do I Love Writing?


For me the rush that comes from writing is not only when I get the idea and get to start planning it, but also from writing the beginning and then the end. I'm addicted to words and they get me high pretty much every day. My name is Joey and I'm a word nerd. I'm addicted to writing and I love every part of it, from writing the first word, to moulding the plot and to typing that last phrase that will tie up the loose ends into a little bow and end the characters story.

However, these things do take time, but how much time? The short answer to that is it varies. I've been writing for fifteen years now and the long and short of it is that sometimes I'll start a book and it'll take me another six or so years to get it to the point where I can happily call it finished, as was the case with THE FRIENDSHIP TRIANGLE. I started writing that when I was thirteen, but it wasn't finished until I was nearly twenty.

Or, like with BLACKOUT, where from first word to last, only ten days passed. I originally only gave it ten chapters - and they were VERY long ones too. I wrote a chapter a day, starting in the morning, writing pen to paper (not like now where I can only type) and then spent the evening typing it up and editing as I went. However after some serious thought and consideration considering that it was a young adult book and the fact that I also prefer when chapters are shorter, I made it into the twenty-five plus chapters it is today. I didn't need to change anything, just used some of the natural stopping points. So, as far as that book was concerned, it was a short, quick and thrilling ride from starting the book to the rush when writing the last sentences.

It's always been something I have looked for in other areas of my life. When I worked a conventional job before I became ill, I didn't get that from my work. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my job and I was good at it. Had I not become sick with M.E and the Fibro, then I would probably still be doing it now, some fifteen years later. However, life has a funny way of pushing you into things that you never even dreamed could happen. I did become sick and I did become a writer and now I don't just love my job, I NEED it!

I know what you're thinking, how can writing a few words on a page provide this "rush" I'm talking about? And what does that have to do with how long it takes me to finish a book? I promise you that I'm not just talking nonsense, there is a feeling of such elation when doing a job you love, and doing it well, that just can't be described in words, and I'm addicted to the words. It's also related because while I may experience, as many writers do, writer's block at some points, it's the rush I'm pursuing when I get close to the end. When I get close to starting a whole new story and entering a whole new world, meeting brand new (and sometimes old too) characters and hearing their stories. It's something that I would highly recommend you try to do in your life.

Sometimes, you want to push the thrill to see how long it will last. Life moves you round and while you thought that you'd manage to get this one book finished in a year, it turns into two and then three before you know it. That's life and while it still gives you some kind of buzz to actually sit and write when you can, it's not just about keeping the high going. If someone was to ask me what it is about writing that gives me this rush, this high, this thrill I couldn't really tell you. It's so much of it that contributes to it that it sometimes seems it's just the whole thing.

I love the beginning, setting the scene and giving the reader the idea of where you're taking them. I love writing the important plot points that I have written over and over in my head as I've waited for the chance to write them. I love the middle when you're knee deep in plot, with murders to solve, people to fall in love with and the answers to come to you. I love it when you're so close to the ending that you can almost see it, but it's not close enough to touch. I love writing the ending, knowing that the words have fallen where they may and you've done it, you've actually finished it! Going past the writing part, I love seeing the story after you've finished editing, I love making the promotional graphics and ordering bookmarks and assorted swag for giveaways. I love working with my artist who designs my front covers and seeing them stage by stage as my characters have a face. I love hitting "publish" when it's all come together and it's ready to send out into the world. I just love it all.

My name is Joey Paul and I am many things, but mostly, I'm a word nerd.

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Sunday, 7 August 2016

Inside The Author: Tips For Aspiring Authors


I know that as someone who has used a vanity press and someone who has had (and lost) a traditional publishing contract, since become an indie author, I get a lot of questions asking me how I did it. There has been a lot of bad feeling in the writing community that those who are not published by a big traditional publisher are somehow less worthy of the title "author". It's not just divided between those who are indie or self-published and those who aren't, it's within all the communities too. However, as someone who has been doing this for nearly eleven years, I can say that the way publishing works is changing. In the past, it was not easy to get into the book and writing world without an agent and someone to guide you. With the success of e-books and growing reliance on all things digital, in addition to places such as Amazon and Smashwords that offer free resources that allow someone to publish their work, it's getting much simpler and easier to get your work out to the public for free without the need for a gatekeeper.

The advice and tips I'd offer someone who was trying to break into the book world vary depending on their hopes and dreams for the outcome. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, of bestsellers and making the New York Times list, of winning awards and becoming rich. Everyone has dreams like that when starting out as a writer. And I know that realistically, when you see how many books there are available on Amazon or in a bookstore, and you think about how many big names you can mention for your chosen genre, you know not everyone will make it big and become a household name in regards to their work. Still, it's nice to day dream and fill your days with wonder. But it also pays to be realistic. So, here's some of my tips for aspiring authors.

#1 - "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go." E.L. Doctorow
When writing your first draft, you're basically telling yourself the story. You're jumping into the pool, at the deep end, feet first and hoping that you don't drown. As the quote above says, you start from nothing and then you build up from there. You have to remember though that your first draft is just that, a draft. It is not the end product and no-one, not even Stephen King or J K Rowling, published their first draft. So, take your time, stop and smell the roses and don't be too hard on yourself. Learn as you go and remember that the beauty of writing is that nothing is set in stone. You can change later, just get the story out onto the page and tell it the best way you know how.

#2 - "You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing." Doris Lessing
As with most skills, you will get better as you carry on. You will learn from your mistakes and you will go forth and produce better quality work and hone your skills. Don't make the mistake of sending your first draft to an editor, whether you intend to indie publish or not. Allow yourself time to correct and get better. And keep writing, because without practice, you won't get to the point where you can say to yourself that you have done the best you can with this story and it's time to move forward.

#3 - "Everyone needs an editor." Tim Foote
No matter how good you are at grammar, spelling, punctuation and all of that, you will need someone to edit your work. You may think you have caught all the errors and you may think that your finished draft is good enough to pass, but never forgo the editing process. That process is best undertaken by someone else, because they will be objective. They will look at your work and they will see what you are trying to say and will be able to conclude whether or not you've been successful. If the editor doesn't understand why you had your character do or say something, then it's likely that the reader won't either. A good editor is not someone who just checks the spelling and sentence structure, but someone who takes your work to pieces and puts it back together again with your help. They work with you, not against you, and do not be afraid to keep trying with different editors until you find one that fits your end goal.

#4 - "People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it." Harlan Ellison
Writing is hard, it's not a simple magic trick and it's not just like vomiting words onto a page, although sometimes it can feel like that. Don't be discouraged by your writer's block and don't be discouraged if you have to cut something that you worked on for hours and hours. When you're writing, you put your blood, sweat and tears into the work and sometimes it seems like even then, that's not enough. Take comfort in the knowledge that a good story exists in all of us, and that it can take months, years, even decades for a book to be finished from the first to the last word. As the first point said, keep going, because you're learning as you go, and there's nothing wrong with that.

And finally, #5 - "I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged." Erica Jong
Don't be afraid to say that you've finished something. There is always the temptation to keep chipping away at what you've done because you want to get it just right. That's the path to unfinished work and a ticket for the train to crazy town, because until you've gotten to the point where you can sit back and say that you've done all you can, that this is the final draft before editing (or even after editing, there is such a thing as too much editing!), you are just someone with an idea and lots of stress and anxiety. It's hard to let go of something you've slaved over and worked on into the wee hours of the morning and let someone else, someone who may not like it, read it, but it has to be done. However, just because you get a rejection letter, it doesn't mean that you should abandon all hope and cross out the word "writer" on your office door. It takes time to be accepted, it takes time to work out the kinks and to find a publishing house - indie or otherwise - that's the right fit for you work. Don't lose hope, keep going and keep dreaming big!

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