Wednesday 22 May 2013

Sorting the Good from the Bad - The Creative Process

Sorting the Good from the Bad
When you've been writing for a while, you realise that you have collected ideas, as it were. You have this bunch of them in your head and you have to decide which ones are viable and which ones need to be forgotten about - no matter how much you want to do them. That process for me takes a lot of time because sometimes something will seem viable and I'll start writing it and then get stuck about three chapters in. So, I'll put it to one side to come back to some day and I know other writers do this too.

The question though is, how long does it have to sit there before you realise that yes, it was a great idea, but it just won't work, no matter how hard you try and how much research you do. Sometimes it's because the time frame as passed and you'd have to make it a seriously dated book before you could even begin to write about it. That limits you in some ways because then you have to be sure to not include things like Facebook and Twitter and such which haven't been as round as long as other means of social networking.

The other problem is that sometimes, the issue, the main piece of plot you were going to base it all around just doesn't jive for you anymore. Maybe you realised that having a ghost follow someone around wouldn't work because you don't really like writing supernatural stuff like that. Maybe you want to write about how hard it is to be a gay couple when marriage is illegal (which, as of writing in the UK, it's not anymore) I mean yes, you can focus on the other pieces of the plot, but if you're main story has gone then all you have left are characters going through life and sometimes, hell, A LOT of the time, that's just not enough.

So, then you have the choice of which ones you want to write and which ones you'd prefer stay in a dark and dusty hole somewhere to never be mentioned again. I'm sure we all have that book that we wrote, that got stupider and more unbelievable by the chapter and eventually you buried it and then decided to just shred and burn it so that it could never see the light of day...or is that just me? Either way, you do have to make a choice between which ideas you move and make into a story and which ones you decide are best left alone.

It's not even as if you have to leave them alone forever, you can lift pieces, characters, sub plots etc. Maybe even the outline of the idea, but you can't write the story the way it started because either you just don't have the insight or it's a crap idea. Accepting that, acknowledging that and working through that, does not make you a bad writer. It doesn't mean that you should throw our your pen and paper (or computer and keyboard if you're like me) and never write again. It just means that you are aware of your limitations. That's not to say that you should never venture out of your comfort zone (that's a piece for another day) just that you have to be realistic about what you can and can not do with a story.

I've been there, I have boxes and folders of stories that have yet to become something more than an idea. I've taken characters from those stories and I've ditched stories. I accept that I am not going to be able to write about absolutely anything I please because I'm human and I have limitations. This is not to say that I can only write what I know, no, that's not what I'm saying. Research (here) exists for a reason and as long as the plot, characters and everything else is something viable, you can research your way into a brand new story that stands the test of readership.

I guess my point is, once again, that there is a balance to be made between what is good (for you as a writer) and what is bad (again, for YOU as a writer). You have to find a way to work out the good ideas from the ones that will leave you screaming, crying and possibly in a permanent catatonic state because it's just too damn impossible for you to make it work. This is not a sign of weakness, in fact I'd say it's more about knowing your own limitations, whatever they may be - it is totally unique to each person and as a writer, you need to learn your own.

Now, if you want to go out of your comfort zone....well, we'll leave that for another piece. Sort the good ideas, ponder on the bad and write and write to your heart's desire. It is, after all, the name of the game.

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Introducing Amber Forbes - Advance Readers Needed

Meet new author AMBER FORBES. She is looking for readers and reviewers for advanced copies of her upcoming book. She is asking for people who would be willing to do a review, or even a short quote about her book. In return you would receive a free advanced copy of her book WHEN STARS DIE before it hits shelves, hopefully in the late summer of 2013.

Amber describes the book as one of paranormal romance, with the romance as more of a sub plot. It is a work of young adult fiction. To find out more, you can follow Amber on Facebook, or on WHEN STARS DIE Facebook or even at the above link.

If you are interested in doing a review, you can contact me at or Amber on

Saturday 18 May 2013

Plot Devices - The Creative Process

Plot Devices

Everything you write will have a beginning, a middle and an end. If it's non-fiction it will have a subject, if it's fiction, it will have a plot. The trick to being a writer of fiction is that you know how to make the plot work for you without it seeming like you're giving everything away too soon. That's where plot devices come into play.

When you start writing you should probably have some idea how the story is going to go. I personally plan a lot (as found here), but you don't have to do that to write. You can use whatever technique works for you. I always find that I write better when I know what is supposed to be happening, which is why I plan as much as I do for my books now. In the beginning it was a vague idea and it worked for some books, but others I really struggled with.

Plot devices are what move the story forward when you think you're stuck. They're the things that help a writer rescue themselves from the despair of writer's block (piece found here). Some writer's will use plot devices as a way to have an undercurrent plot running along at the same time as the main one. Others use them for a little quirky piece in chapter 31 and resolve them before never really mentioning them again. You can do either or you can find a new way to use plot devices to help you. There really is no right way and don't let anyone else tell you there is.

Plot devices are useful, they can restart a piece when you've struggled to find the words to move it on. They can't be used all the time though. Yes, you should have a reason for every scene, but at the same time, there should not be a dramatic plot piece happening in every single chapter or paragraph. Sometimes, to move the story on, you need to have a little day to day normalcy. Again, though your mileage may vary.

Writing fiction is about creating from nothing, it's about making people from words and situations from letters. It's an awesome skill to have and it's a wonderful thing to do. I immensely enjoy it, though at times I do find myself stuck, and also at times I surprise myself and bring a plot to the surface that I had never planned on using. That is the great thing about writing fiction, there are no real "rules" as such. Even if you're not writing fantasy, there is still a little bit of leeway in what you have your characters do - artistic license if you will.

The thing you have to be careful about is that you don't go too far. The plot has to be real, it has to be believable (even if you are creating a whole new universe) and you have to be able to have a reason for whatever plot device you use. It's no good adding in a piece about your character going to the doctor or feeling very ill, if by the next chapter they are suddenly all better and fighting crime anew. That just doesn't make sense. And your readers can't believe in the plot if your characters don't believe in it too. For example, if a character is injured and there's nothing preventing them from getting to a hospital, get them there. Even if you really, REALLY want character A to nurse them back to health or for character B to get up and save the day. So, yes, while I say there are no hard and fast rules, there are some things your readers just won't let you get away with. However, it's really up to you how you choose to use, push and bend the rules of reality.

So, enjoy using them and use them as you will, but try to keep the balance between when and how often and why you use them in sync. You don't want to make it totally unrealistic, but you do have a certain degree of license.

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Tuesday 14 May 2013

Sacrifices - The Creative Process

When you're a writer, you have to be prepared for inspiration to strike at the most awkward moments. I've already done a piece of what happens when it's 3am and you're suddenly inspired (see here), but I'm not just talking about having to give up a little sleep. Sometimes, you have to be prepared to give up a lot more than that. Like going out with a friend for a drink, or some free time you had planned. And sleep too. I don't mean that you can't do those things, of course you can! I'm not your mother and you can spend your time however you like!

But, be prepared to be stuck to a deadline if you're working with a conventional publisher, hell, even if you work for yourself. It's not just social things, but physical things too. Writing rarely makes you a lot of money straight away. If you're one of the lucky ones who writes a bestseller and makes their millions? Then why are you reading my blog? Go spend it! And live a life of luxury! I'm not one of those, and to be honest, not many writers do end up making huge amounts of money. The big names like Harlan Coben, Jacqueline Wilson, J K Rowling, Sue Grafton and James Patterson, they write more than one bestseller and they do make enough to live off what they make...and many others do too.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you won't instantly find an agent who loves your stuff. You won't instantly get accepted with an advance for the next novel the first time you approach a published. Your book won't sell millions, even thousands the moment it's released. If you're in the writing business to make yourself a few million. I suggest you don't quit your day job and get used to the fact that it is not something that will happen overnight. It's something you have to work at, REALLY work at. Even if you work for years and your book(s) sells a lot of copies, you still won't be making millions. So, get used to sacrifices.

For me, personally, I've sacrificed time, energy, money, fun, sleep and the physical things to write and to keep writing. No, I don't want a medal, and I'm not telling you this so that you'll think more of me. I'm just telling you that to get to a point where your work is selling and you're making some money, you need to be ready to give a lot of things up. Taming your muse (piece found here) and writing a lot of good stuff is really only half the battle, as anyone who has gotten published will tell you (check out the after process). A lot of good writers, hell, even great writers still have to hold down a day job and only get the chance to write when they have free time. Those who can take time to write are always struggling to find "more" time than the twenty-four hours in the day to write.

Sacrificing to do something you love is not limited to the writing track. It's part of being a grown up. Sometimes you have to do something you loathe to be able to do something you love. For people who think that writing is as easy as quitting your day job and just banging out some words on a keyboard, I have some news for you - it's nothing like that.

Even if there was a way to live off money you don't have and write 24/7, it's not always something that's possible. You do have to sleep and I don't know about you but the older I get, the harder it is to function on less sleep. (I also have M.E, so that could have something to do with it.) Add to that, that you also need to eat, and although you can kinda manage that while typing (she says trying to eat a banana and type at the same time) it's not healthy to live and breathe one thing. You need to have some fun and although you won't be able to do what you want ALL the time (unless you're like two, in which case, go right ahead!) There has to be some balance between the things you HAVE to do and the things you want to do, namely writing.

Writing is a passion for many, you can't make millions overnight with little effort and at times you'll make sacrifices and you'll have to learn to live with them. Even if you have a natural talent for telling a story - as some people do (I'm not one of them) - then you have to put your time into not just telling the story but making it into something you can sell. Sacrifice a little and reap the rewards of creating characters and universes. It's more fun than this piece makes it sound. Good luck to you all!

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Monday 13 May 2013

Choosing Names - The Creative Process

Choosing Names

It's one of the things that every writer does, after all we can't just refer to our characters as "the black haired one who has no name". I'll admit at times I have looked through Google for top names to call children and there was a Tumblr post going round the writing community that said something like "I'm Not Pregnant, Just Naming Characters" in response to a fictional book called "I'm Not A Psychopath, Just A Writer". I've done it, you'll do it, the majority of us will do it during our time as writers. You have to call your character *something* after all!

The problem is that sometimes we already know what they'll be called - like when I named Tara after my pet rat - and other times it doesn't really matter or we're not looking for a meaningful name, just a name will do. However, and having done this myself, sometimes we need a certain name. One that has great meaning and will lead the reader to look up the etymology of the name and think "ah ha! *That* is why he/she is called that!" and we'll be rather pleased with ourselves.

That's where baby name sites and books of names come in handy. You can also call them after a friend, a cameo in your book if you will. I have a lovely t-shirt that says "do not annoy the writer. She may put you in her book and kill you" and I think it's very true. I have used people I know to mould and create characters. I have also just used their personality traits or their name and the character is nothing like them and I mean for that to happen. I haven't, as of yet, put someone in a book just to kill them because they annoyed me, but give me time and I'm sure it'll happen.

So, how do you choose? I'm quite fond of the open a page and stick a pin in it method. I've done that with maps of the UK when I'm deciding where whoever it is should live. Only a few times mind you, the majority of my books take place in the same town. Totally unnamed and there's no need for me to even do that. At least not yet. As those who have read LYNNE & HOPE will know, Tally & Lisa from BLACKOUT make a very short appearance and so that may have told me readers that they all live in the same place. They don't interact with each other (at least not in any other books I've written to date) but it's a town where I picture them all co-existing. The exceptions to that are book seven, which is based in two separate places and book nine which is based in my home town. Whatever, I'm getting off the point here.

How do you decide if the name for your character is the right one? Have you ever noticed that some people really "fit" the name they use? I mean like I've known some Daniel's that really suit that name. I've known others, like Simon and such. What you should aim for is that the character suits their name. You can be all fancy, you can be all I don't care, give me a name that starts with z and go from there. However, you want it to be a name that's fitting to who they are.

You don't have to go with a common name, though going too uncommon leads to confusion at times. I know I'm guilty of that - Kaolin isn't exactly on the Top 10 Names list...ever actually. I, however, purposefully picked her name to be obscure. I have my reasons for the majority of my names and I could list them all here, but it's not about me naming my characters, but about you naming yours.

The thing is, generally speaking, you don't just have to find *one* name, but two because you have to have a surname (or at least you have to have one in the books I've written) and that's where something like Google comes in handy. In a few of my books, I've had characters from different countries appear - Thank God for the Internet - and because I don't want to necessarily use a friend's surname, I can easily Google "common surnames in Finland/Nigeria/Iraq etc" and I usually get what I'm looking for. I do the same for first names when I want it to be a name not readily used in the UK. You can, of course, do the same for someone's surname when they are from the UK. However, I've found that for all the minor characters you will write, they don't list enough surnames for you to have a unique one every time.

And it doesn't have to be unique every single time you make a new character. After all they are the "common" surnames which kinda suggests that more than one family in the UK have that surname. I try to avoid it if I can, or I just make one up. That's the good thing about creating characters and names and stuff, because sometimes you can pull something out of your arse and no one can tell you it's wrong. If it works for you, do it. As long as it's not something completely stupid like Bob nosurnamecozicouldntthinkofone, then I think you'll do okay.

So, go forth and create characters, mould them (found here) and name them. Then go and send them on adventures, because that's what they live for.

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Moulding Your Characters - The Creative Process

Moulding Your Characters

So, you've got the best idea ever for a story. You have the plot down, you're planned it all and then you realise that you have no idea what kind of characters you want to write. You know what genre you'll be writing (for the sake of this piece I'll assume, teen fiction and romance or crime genre) and you know where you want it to go. You've even got their names and you have some idea how you want them to look and act. So, you're all planned then, right?

Well...I wouldn't put all your eggs in the basket just yet.

I can only speak for myself and some of the other writers I've spoken to about this, but it's not just as simple as picking out names (I'll do a piece on that another day) and assigning a description and then away you go. Imagine, if you will, that you're playing The Sims (doesn't matter what version) you've made your person (character) and you've given them the right body size, clothes, eyes, face, even down to what they'd wear on a posh night out and you click "done" and volia! You've made your character.

Only, if you've ever played The Sims you'll know that they start out with no skill points in ANYTHING and you have to work at certain areas to get them to even cook without burning down the house. As nice as it is to play God with Sims and just not call the fire brigade. It's a good analogy for what it's like when you make characters. You can start the story with them made and no skill points. But once you've started, you need to mould your character, and you need to do it within the first few chapters before your readers decide that your character is two dimensional and that they are not interested in reading about them.

How do you do that? There are a number of ways to add "skill points" to a character. You need to not just think about their hair colour and the way they look, but you have to include interests, like do they enjoy sports? Or reading? Do they prefer their tea black or with milk or not at all? If they do like tea, can it be any kind? Herbal? Chai Latte? Or are they a staple English Breakfast, milk with two sugars kinda person? Do they have a favourite author? Do they only like certain kinds of music? Are they a TV watcher? Do they watch certain shows, or do they just put it on for background noise? Do they follow the news? Get a newspaper? I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

It's the little things like that, that will make a character all that more believable and "real". It doesn't even have to be big things, it can be the smaller details that make it all that much better. You want your readers to relate to the character, but you don't want to also be name dropping things like Starbucks every few moments. You can have product placement, sure. It would be a pretty strange world if they didn't have things like Coke and Pepsi and Starbucks etc.

You'd be surprised how many people tell you that once they start to mould their characters and tell their story that things did not turn out the way that they had planned. I've had the same thing happen. Some of my characters I've planned something big and they've refused to play ball. That may sound like I'm a bit out there and think that they are real, I don't, but your writing can be influenced by the way you've moulded them and the choices you've made for their personality. Sometimes you'll write a scene and just look at the reactions and think "Nope, ain't gonna work" and then it's back to the drawing board. It happens to us all, well the majority of us at least.

So, you need to do more than just describe them, you need to make them into a person. The idea being that if you were to take them out of the book and put them on the screen they would stand up to be somewhat normal. If they can stand alone OUTSIDE the book, then you've done it well. Another thing to remember is that you don't have to list all their likes and dislikes when you introduce them in the story, whether it be in first person or second or even third. No one wants to read page after page of how So-and-So likes to paint their toe nails this colour on a Tuesday because it matches their outfit. It's not so much as putting the information on the page, as having it ready in case it comes up whilst you're writing.

Good Luck and have fun, because if you can't have fun, you're in the wrong job.

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Saturday 11 May 2013

Taming Your Muse - The Creative Process

Taming Your Muse

See the picture above? That's what I call my muse. Silly I know, but I like to have something physical to hold onto and play around with while I'm waiting for inspiration to strike. I've talked about writer's block (here) and the struggle with that. I've also talked about when inspiration strikes at the worst times (here) but now I'd like to talk about how you tame your muse.

Pretty much every writer I've known has either had something they refer to as their muse. They may also call it their "inspiration" for the story they have written. Sometimes, like in the case of the TV show, CASTLE, it's a person. Sometimes, like in my case, it's an object that's whole purpose in life is to both annoy me and make me giggle like a three year old. Whatever you think of as your muse. You have to learn how to take the inspiration from its starting point to where it will end up in your writing.

I'm a planner (read about it here) and I'm also someone who easily gets distracted (read here). I struggle with my writing at times, but I also set myself goals to keep me orientated. Like writing two books at once (here), or writing a whole series (here). I find that I work best when I know exactly what I want from myself, but also when my elusive muse decides to let me in on how the story *should* go.

Sometimes I spend ages staring at it and cursing at it. I spend time making it vibrate across my desk and chapter plans. I beg it, I plead with it. I just want to write a few sentences, I say, can I just not get a helping hand up to the start? Sometimes it plays ball, other times it just screws with me for shits and giggles. Most of the time I don't know when it's doing either to be quite honest.

Being a writer and writing stories, be they novels, novellas or even a short article, you need to find that balance between relying on that inanimate object or person or whatever to write the piece for you, and finding the words from inside yourself. Once you strike that balance (and you will, eventually) you'll soon see that it's just something you keep around for sentimental reasons and not because you need it. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I'm going through a good patch writing wise.

"NanoBug", that's what my muse is called. It has no other function but to help me to think OUTSIDE the box. I need to write (hell, we all need to write) original works. It's not good taking something someone else has done previously and trying to make it similar but different enough that you won't be sued for plagiarism. You want an original idea. You want something that's within your comfort zone, something that you will enjoy writing and think others will enjoy reading. However, it's far too easy to get stuck in that little box of comfort and just churn out book after book without breaking a sweat. You need to make yourself work for the prize.

That's why you need to tame your muse. If, like me, you prefer to stick to one genre that you enjoy yourself then you need to make a compromise. You can write teen fiction, you can write books for middle aged women, whatever you fancy. It's the genre where you need to sometimes jump outside your box with your eyes closed and pray you land on something soft. So, say you are me. Which is good, coz I'm rather awesome ;) You write teen fiction and you mostly write for the crime genre. Yet, you know that you can't just sit there forever. You have to embrace new things. Art does not stand still and writing is an art form all on its own.

So, you step out and you think, I'll write a teen fiction book with the focus on romance, or one for pre-teens, or one with a different kind of crime story. Throw in a little supernatural, throw in some thing you've wanted to explore but have never gotten the chance. The idea is to think outside the box and sometimes that means dipping your toe into the pool and being unsure if you'll sink or swim. Every writer will go through this at some point and you never know, it might end up being something you thoroughly enjoy and plan to do again. It might even become your new main genre.

Whatever the outcome, we live in an age when a wealth of information is at our fingertips. The internet and while I don't advise using it as your ONLY source of research, it can come in handy for those little pieces that makes your work even more real to the reader.

So, learn to tame your muse. Bring it under your control and step outside of the box on occasion. If it all goes horribly wrong then at least you've learnt that that particular genre is not for you. Not everything you write has to make it to the final stages of publication. Explore the world a little, learn new things and enjoy making your readers enjoy them too. Most of all, have fun. If it becomes something you dread doing, then you're doing it wrong!

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When Inspiration Strikes - The Creative Process

When Inspiration Strikes...

You're a writer which means you're pretty much reliant on those creative juices flowing by whatever means necessary. You find something that works for you and you stick to it. Maybe you have a routine you go through - a special cup, a special pen, paper (for those who are old school) or you have a set up on your laptop for when you want to write. Generally, it keeps you churning out the pages and that's the main thing, right?

So, it's getting late and you realise you are so close to finishing this chapter but you know that it will be a few more pages and it could be late. If you're like me, you know that sometimes you just can't leave it and pick up again in the morning. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice sleep to make sure that you stay in the "zone". Inspiration is a little sod, and you are at it's mercy.

This happened me to me recently. I had been blocked and couldn't seem to get started on the next few chapters of one of my current works in progress. Now, if you know anything about me, you'll know that I generally write two books at once (here). You'll also know that I'm a planner (here) and I like to stick to the plan. So, when faced with inspiration dangling in my face and basically telling me that I could go to bed, but there was no guarantee it was going to hang around until morning.

There was the other problem I was faced with which was that my brain was plagued with what I could write and added to my problems with pain management, I decided that I would get the chapters finished, give into the master named "Inspiration" and *then* I would go to bed. Yeah, if, like me you've ever done this, you'll know that it rarely ends up with you getting much, if any sleep.

So, what can you do to get inspiration from striking at the worst possible moment? Not much, but I've tried a few things to get inspiration flowing at the right times and I'll pass these onto you here.

1. Routine is good...
Like so many writers I have my routine when I'm going to do some writing. I make myself a nice cup of tea. I open my word program, sometimes I put some music on to set the mood and then I read through the last couple of chapters to put myself in the zone. If I'm lucky, I'll just need a sentence or two before my brain kicks into gear and off I go.

2....except when it's not
However, sometimes routine is the thing that stops me. I personally don't work that well under pressure. Call it a character flaw or whatever. I like to know that I am in control of when whatever I am doing is due then I work better and that's one of the reasons I work to my own deadlines with a lot of what I do. So, sometimes changing some of the routine - like writing a different book than the one I'm supposed to be working on, or doing some planning for later chapters will be enough to keep the inspiration flowing

3. When it works, keep going
Since I already did a piece on writer's block (here) I'm trying to keep this piece about what I do when inspiration strikes at a bad time and this is one thing I try to do. It can be 4am, when I roll over and go for a pee and I realise that I can do this or that with Tara (I'm generally always working on a DYING THOUGHTS book, so this  usually is what I think about) or that other character(s) and if I can, I write it down somewhere - thank goodness for tablets - so that I can come back to it in the morning. If I'm working on something late at night and I feel like I'm there and that if I stop it would disrupt me, I try to keep going. It isn't always possible. I do have other responsibilities like uni work, oh and that eight year old that likes to go to school on occasion. However, sometimes one late night is worth the results. It's when they become too frequent that you have problems.

4. It is never inconvenient to be inspired
When I think about some of the places and times I have been inspired to start a book or carry on with a story, I laugh. I remember once, early in my writing career when I had basically given up with a book (it was the first DYING THOUGHTS actually) and I had sent chapters, four at a time, to a friend to read. I had basically backed myself into a corner. Anyway, I went on holiday and met up with her and the first thing she asked was when was I going to finish the book because she was desperate to know the answer. Inspiration struck and I spent the evening in the hotel writing the ending. So, from that I conclude that there is never a "wrong" time for your muse to start singing from the right hymn sheet.

So, whether the light bulb goes off when you expect it to, or if it waits until you're fumbling round in the dark for the light switch, remind yourself that it's all for the greater good. Inspiration leads to stories and stories lead to creating. Creating is fun and, for me the best part of the job (though arguably it's the only part of the job!)

Now, I'm running on about three hours sleep so I'm going to go back to the less fun part of the job and do more editing...

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Friday 10 May 2013

Editing, Covers and Updates


I just thought I would do a quick general update to let all my readers know what's going on with everything at Joey Paul Online.

DYING THOUGHTS - THIRD WISH is due for release on JULY 8TH 2013 on Amazon Kindle. It is in the final editing stages right now and that's the part that I hate most! But do not fear, I will force my way through it and get it done in time. The new cover art is also in the works and will hopefully be ready for an unveiling sometime in late June. Both my editor and graphic artist are working very hard, as am I, to get this book out on time. 

Following the release of the third DYING THOUGHTS book, LYNNE & HOPE will soon be available on Smashwords and all other good e-book retailers. It will also be getting a cover make over, but that won't happen immediately. As always, follow me here or on Facebook to get the news first!

Along with new cover art for DYING THOUGHTS - THIRD WISH & LYNNE & HOPE, my graphic artist is working on new cover art for BLACKOUT, DYING THOUGHTS - FIRST TOUCH, DYING THOUGHTS - SECOND SIGHT & THE FRIENDSHIP TRIANGLE. Keep checking back for updates!

I am pleased to say that I finished both book nine and book ten last month and am now working on both book eleven and book twelve. Keep checking back to be among the first to get the information on those! 

As always, thank you for reading and be sure to follow Joey on Facebook or here on this blog. You can subscribe to updates by email in the sidebar.

Writing Characters - Tara & Kaolin

Writing Characters - Tara & Kaolin

When you're writing a series, one of the important things is that you actually *like* the characters. Luckily, when I started the DYING THOUGHTS series and made Tara the main character, I fell in love with her pretty much straight away. So, here's a piece that discusses the two main people in that series of books.


I named Tara after my pet rat - yup, I had pet rats. I had called one Tally (bet you can guess why!) and it seemed fitting to name my next character after my two creatures. As I've said in past interviews, I got the idea for the DYING THOUGHTS series when I was walking round ASDA at some stupid time in the morning because I couldn't sleep. I had wanted to write a series because of my disappointment at having to say goodbye to Tally and know that I would probably never get to write about her again. So, the idea was born and along with that the character.

Tara strikes me as the typical teenager who has a famous father. She lost her mother at a young age and her dad gave up his career in the music industry to make sure that Tara was well looked after and loved. She, however, may have disagreed with the way he did it. Like telling her that her mother had died from a battle with cancer. The premise of the books is simple, Tara has a "gift". She inherited from her mother and was unaware of that for the majority of the first book. She never knew where the gift had come from and why, when she touched objects that belonged to someone who had died, she would have a vision of their last moments on earth.

For the majority of the first book, Tara had no idea about the history of her gift and it was more of an annoyance for her. Writing her was always a joy because when I thought I had pushed her to her limits, she would turn around and surprise me. She had been the centre of attention for a while in her early school years when her dad was still famous and they rubbed shoulders with other families. After her mother's death and her dad's retirement, that stopped and Tara became the typical loner. She was the opposite of Tally, she didn't care (and I'm not just saying that, she really did NOT care) and then along came Kaolin.

Once she realised that she could have a friend who was not as freaked out by who her father was, basically someone who did NOT care that her father had been famous, she found a kindred spirit. Don't think they were alike in any way though. Kaolin and Tara were as different as chalk and cheese. They made it work though.

I've recently finished the fifth book in the DYING THOUGHTS series and I have to say that Tara can still surprise me. As I want her to go one way, she'll stomp her foot down and say "nope, not gonna happen." Other times I think of her not doing something and she's all for it. You have to learn as a writer that when you mould and create these characters, they do become life like. They are not real in the literal sense, but they are real to us. There have been times in the five books where I have hated what I am putting Tara through, have shed tears at her hurt. I think that just makes her feel more real.


Kaolin was always planned to be an integral part of the DYING THOUGHTS series. She was always going to be Tara's friend. I didn't know how close they would become because sometimes if you force it, make the friendship too close then it'll seem fake and wrong. Kaolin had her own tortured past and she herself goes through a lot in the books. She's also the voice of reason to Tara's insane ideas and theories.

When I first introduced them to each other, I wasn't sure if it would work out. There were times when I thought that maybe Tara would push it too far and that would be the end of their friendship. However, if nothing else, they have become closer as I write each book. As I said, they are VERY different, but it works for them. Kaolin is a "peek" as Tara says. Peek being someone who is both popular and a geek. Kaolin is someone that the popular kids want to get into their circle and wonder why she bothers with Tara. I'll say this for her, no matter how much Tara may piss her off at times she is a very loyal friend.

The good thing about their friendship is that they both know when to push and when to back away. They go through good times and bad together and I like to think that even when I close the books and write the ending to the whole series that years from now, they will still be as close as they are now. Secondary school (high school to those from the US) is a hard thing to go through on your own, especially when you're like Tara who seems to attract trouble like it's going out of style and having someone like Kaolin around who can ground you and get you to count to ten before lashing out is a must for everyone who has to go through that experience.

She seems to be able to seek out the truth behind Tara's own worries and even now, as I write book six in the series, I can't see them parting ways. I have a friend like that myself who has been through thick and thin with me, good and bad and we're still the best of friends. I like to think that Tara and Kaolin have that going on too.

You can get the first and second DYING THOUGHTS books on Amazon Kindle as well as many other e-book retailers. The third is due out on July 8th 2013. Follow Joey Paul on Facebook or her on this blog for updates about her books and other ventures.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Writing Characters - Tally & Lisa

Writing Characters - Tally & Lisa

I decided that to continue the writing pieces I had been doing that the next topic of conversation - I see these as me communicating about my process - was to talk about what the inspiration was behind certain characters and how it felt writing them and what worked for me etc. So, for the first one, I'll be focusing on the BLACKOUT main characters - Tally & Lisa.


I think of Tally as the first main character that I actually wrote and created, as you'll find out she wasn't technically my first character, but I still think of her like that. The inspiration behind Tally was the fact that I liked the name and thought it would suit what I was hoping to do with the character. Those of you who have read BLACKOUT, you'll know it's about Tally's life and the struggle to clear her name. I wanted to present her as someone everyone didn't like. The idea was that people would read the first few chapters and think "spoilt brat, ugh, hate her!" and thankfully, a lot of people did. The problem was making sure that people wanted to know enough about her to keep reading after she woke up and discovered her life was a dream.

Tally was your everyday teenager who was desperate to fit in and obviously didn't for whatever reason. I never really gave a reason as to why she didn't fit in. She had the ability to be one of the "in crowd", but she never quite made it. She tried to use other characters, like Lisa for example, to bring herself up to the level of the people she desperately wanted to pay attention to her.

Tally's story was one that had been inside my head for many years. I'd wanted to write it and wanted to bring it to life for a long time until that day when I was 19 and put pen to paper (I didn't type everything in the beginning) and I have to say I'm really pleased with what I ended up with. She seemed to take on her own role in my head, and sometimes I would have plans for her and then, she'd take me in a different direction. Characters do that sometimes, as other writers will attest to.

When Tally finally woke up and smelt the coffee so to speak and became friends with the most unlikely person, Lisa, I realised that it hadn't been planned like that and she'd shown me a side of herself that I hadn't seen. That is what I love about creating characters because they do that a lot. They take you places and they react in a way and suddenly you, their creator, look at them and think, "Huh, didn't see that coming!"

In the end, Tally did the right thing and although I like to think it's mostly my writing that led her to that conclusion, I know that some of it was her own doing.


Lisa was never meant to be a main character. She was going to be the character that everyone picked on, but was never befriended. I found myself putting her with Tally more and more, and then the opportunity arose for me to explain and explore more of her depth and I liked what I saw.

Every time I would write her and Tally together, I saw something that could be, as Tally put it "a beautiful friendship". I have never planned to give Lisa, Brittle Asthma, as I've said in past interviews, it's a disease close to my heart as I actually have a form of the disease. It made writing her all the more enjoyable. I was able to work out some of my own thoughts regarding my diagnosis and it of course helped with the details towards the end of the book.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted Tally to end up, where I wanted her to be. Lisa, on the other hand, was supposed to be a throwaway character and look how she ended up? It's amazing what we create when we put our minds to it and allow them a little freedom. Lisa was one of those moments.

Without discussing the ending (I don't want to spoil anyone who may not have read it) I agonised over what to do with Lisa, and I think I reached a good middle ground. It could have been worse, a lot worse and it could have been better. I wanted to give Tally the wake up call she needed and through Lisa I was able to do that.

Together, they make a great pair. They truly are very good friends and although their story has finished (except for that tiny cameo in a later book) I like to think that they would have stayed friends long after school had finished. It was very hard leaving BLACKOUT once it was finished. I had, as mentioned previously, wanted so desperately to do a sequel, but alas, it was never meant to be.

You can get BLACKOUT on Amazon Kindle as well as many other e-book retailers. Follow Joey Paul on Facebook or her on this blog for updates about her books and other ventures.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Tracking Sales - The After Process

It's something some writers do, in fact I'd go as far to say as a lot of writers do it. Both those who are self-published and those who went the more conventional route. You want to know how your book is doing, you want to know if it's selling and if it is, how many. The trick is to not fall into the trap of checking your sales every few minutes. Something those who are self-published have the ability to do.

As someone who has been there and done the refreshing and checking, it's hard to break the habit. Of course it's best that you never start in the first place but I think that's a rather unreal demand. If you're a writer, and you've published in some way, you're going to want to know that people are actually reading your works. And checking every few days for sales and possibly your rank on Amazon or other places is okay, it's when it starts to affect the work you're doing or your life that it becomes a problem.

So, you've decided that you're going to write a book and you get it published by some means or another. You then decide that you kinda like this writing stuff and so you'll write another. However, you want to be sure that your audience is captivated with your new work. For those of us who have decided to go the self-publishing route (for one reason or another) the big problem with tracking sales religiously is that unless you've done some self-promoting (a piece about this can be found here) then people aren't necessarily going to *know* that you even have a book out. After Blackout was first released as an e-book, I didn't do much promoting. People knew it was there, but they were usually my friends or family and there are only so many sales that are going to come from that. It wasn't until my third and fourth books were released that I realised I had to do some serious self-promotion. I'll admit it, I was an amateur and made a mistake.

Once I got the self-promotion started, it became a thing where I would check every morning to see if there were sales. In the beginning there weren't many, or any really. Then I did a promotion and my sales went through the roof (for me at least, maybe not for someone like Harlan Coben or Sue Grafton.) Suddenly I was seeing sales double by the minute and I realised that I needed to carry on with the promotion, which I did. However, I then fell into the trap of putting too much stock into how many sales I made that day.

As with all things, the huge surge in sales trickled down, people knew I was there but until I released book five and got some reviews that would convince others to try me out (I was, after all a very new writer on the scene) I wasn't going to be able to do anything myself. I started to think that it wasn't worth finishing the books I was working on, I got too fixated on sales rather than doing the thing I loved - writing. And there's the problem. If you're a writer, an author or whatever you want to call yourself, then it's obvious that you probably don't do it for the money, but because you like to create from nothing a story about characters you thought up. If tracking your sales becomes something you base your day's work on, you can lose that love of your work. And nobody should have to do a job that isn't fun. They do because the world works like that, but they shouldn't have to.

Anyway, I digress. Tracking sales is something you should check because you want to know that your book(s) are selling, but alongside that you should be tracking reviews, doing self promotion, interviews and interaction with the audience for your genre. It shouldn't control everything you do, it should just be something that is part of the job. Something that you do, but that doesn't have an effect on your general overview of your work. Some great books don't make that many sales, and others make so many you wonder how people can read them. It's all down to the audience.

So, by all means track your sales and your rank on stores and websites, but remember that writing is a joy and don't make it something that takes away part of that joy. Now I have to go read my piece on Distractions to remind myself that I do actually have a job to do :D