Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cameos & Easter Egss - The Creative Process

Cameos and Easter Eggs

When you start writing your first piece, whether it's a novella, short story, full length novel, or series of novels, there's the temptation (at least for me) to add in little surprises for those who have read all your work. There is also the temptation to do cameos of people you know and turn them into characters. Since these are both broad subjects, I'm going to break them down into two. First, I'll discuss cameos and then Easter eggs.

Cameos are primarily when you either name a character after someone you know in real life, or when you give a character in your work the appearance and personality of someone you may or may not know. It can work for you depending on how you go about doing it, and it can sometimes be a way to give a thank you nod to someone who has inspired or helped you along your writing journey.

I will admit that I have, a few times, used cameos to do just this. I have either given a character the name of a friend, or I have used their personality or appearance as a way to thank them for their support. One thing I will stress is that you need to do this only with their permission. A friend of mine let me use their name and then I turned them into a killer with a drug habit. They loved it! I know that at the beginning of most books,  there is a disclaimer that any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, and it's mostly true. Yet, there are times when you already know someone who would be perfect in the role of the character you are writing.

When I first started writing BLACKOUT, I hadn't yet got into writing seriously and didn't think of a baby name book as a useful tool. The internet was around, but it was 2001 and I wrote by hand. I chose names for people from things that were lying around - hence why there is a character named "Dr. Miffy"! However, though later books have been written in similar ways, I soon learned that using too many of the same names would just get both boring, and confusing. So, I would use names that belonged to the wide support network of people who had helped cheer me on, beta read or even edited my books. I wasn't making huge amounts of money (not that I am now!), and it was one of the ways I could pay them back, but immortalizing them in print.

In fact, quite a few of my "bit" characters - those who only have a few lines and are then relegated to the hidden depths of my memory - have been modelled on people I have known, and who have been of great help to me. Some of them have their names, others just have identifying features that only they and I am aware of. In some ways,  these are Easter Eggs of their own, for people who know where to look. That brings me to the second part of this piece, Easter Eggs.

I'm sure you've all had a favourite author, whom you follow and read as many as you can. Sometimes you'll find that they "hide" parts of previous (or future) stories in their books as a something for those loyal followers to find. I have done the same with a few of my books that I'm sure people had found already. Yet, there are other pieces of information that would not make sense to anyone but me, and would seem as nothing important. When I first starting writing, I wrote every day with my best friend, B, who was writing her own series of books.

We both made a deal, and that was to leave Easter Eggs to the others books in our own. BLACKOUT has a reference to her first book in it, but since her books were never published, it's seemingly meaningless. Still, it makes me smile to read back through it and remember those days. I'm sure that if she ever does manage to re-write and get her books out there, that people may connect the dots. I'm also sure that people may wonder what the reference is, but I'll leave that to your imagination. Answers on a postcard!

The thing about Easter Eggs is that they need to not stand out too much. I'm sure you've all made the connection between BLACKOUT and another book, in that you get to revisit BLACKOUT towards the end of LYNNE & HOPE. I don't know how many other references there are to my books in other ones because I can't remember how many of them made it past the red pen of death of my editor. The ones that stay though are fun to look back on.

Both cameos and Easter Eggs are a fun part of writing. If done well, then no one but you and the editor possibly, will even be aware that they exist. You don't need to talk about them, and I'm sure that I am not the only writer who does them. If you look closely at other writer's work, I'm sure you'll be able to see their own versions of Easter eggs. Cameos are harder to spot because usually, the link is only known to the writer and the person the character is based on. I wish you luck in finding some though!

Follow Joey on her Facebook or here on her blog to be kept up to date with the latest news about Joey and her books.

Saturday 24 August 2013

200 Likes Give-away - WINNER

The winning number of the 200 likes give-away was Mary Lowery! Thanks everyone for taking part and I'll message Mary with the details of how to claim her prize :D

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The Ending - The Creative Process

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The Ending

If you've ever had writer's block or gotten frustrated with your work, be it a short story or a long novel, you've probably had the feeling of wanting to hurry up and get to the ending. My friends will tell you that when I get frustrated I say "Rocks fall, everyone dies, the end!" I've never actually ended a book with that, but the temptation to do so can be very strong. Usually when faced with this kind of block (piece here), I have to use all the tricks of my trade to resist the urge and not actually kill everyone and end the book there.

That does raise a good point though... when does it end? When does the end happen? What happens at the end? And when do you know you've given it a good enough ending? I can't speak for every writer, but as a detailed planner (piece here) who has organised notes down to which colour note cards I use for which information, I usually have some idea *how* I want the book to end and when. I have, however, had some issues with when it's time to stop typing and say that it's the best you can do and that's that. I can only think of two times when I've been really sure that the ending I've given is the best one I could have done. One was with BLACKOUT and the other was with my ninth book, which has yet to be released. Both of those times, I wrote in a fury and then finally, it came to a natural close. I read back through them and thought, "hey, this is good... this is really good... this is the right ending!" The other books I've written? Well, the ending for those didn't always come as easily as I would have liked.

I always have a plan, I always generally stick to the plan, and sometimes I even have some idea of what I want the last line to say. But, life doesn't always work that way and even though these characters are of my own creation, it's not always as simple as writing the ending the way I planned to. As most writers will tell you, characters sometimes take the story a different way than was first planned. Inspiration strikes at opportune moments (piece here) and you may find yourself suddenly knee deep in something that you never planned for. So, putting that aside, let's get back to the questions.

When does it end? When does the end happen? Well, usually for me, there is a point where I can start wrapping things up and bring the story to a close. If it's a stand alone book, like BLACKOUT or LYNNE & HOPE, I know when to start switching off the lights, and closing the curtains because once the main plot has been solved (usually crime for me) I can bring everything together and leave it there. I do like to have some semblance of life after the "big" event, whatever that event may be. However, when you're writing a series like the DYING THOUGHTS series, then you have to decide if you want it to lead into the next story, or if you want to finish it completely. I usually go for a mixture of both. FIRST TOUCH leaves it open for SECOND SIGHT, the fourth book leads into the fifth and so on. So, for me, the rule of thumb is usually that when things have been solved, the criminal caught and everyone is safe and happy to carry on with their lives, *that's* when it ends.

What happens at the end? This is really something that only the writer can answer. For me, like I said, I want to pull all those strings together, tie them in a neat enough bow (a little messy is okay) and go from there. In BLACKOUT, I had a chapter that showed where the characters were a few weeks after the big reveal. In LYNNE & HOPE, I had a chapters that did something similar and in some of the DYING THOUGHTS books, I usually just have Tara move onto the next case, whether I'm setting it up for the next book or not. The difference between a stand alone and a series (or even a book with just one sequel) is that you need to make sure the reader is going to be satisfied with the way you have left it. You want them to be happy when they say goodbye to the characters and not wonder if they were ever going to be okay again. With a series, you want them to be interested enough to want to carry on reading. The ending is your way of getting the reader to close the book. It doesn't have to be happily ever after, some of the best books don't have a "happy" ending, but it does need to be somewhat final. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

So, onto the final question, when do you know you've given it a good enough ending? Now, I don't know about other writer's, we are a weird and wonderful bunch and we all have our own ways of doing things. When I finish a book, I close the document and then I go away and work on something else or something new. I don't go back to it until it's time to start the after process. At which time, I am finally able to see if I have given it the ending it deserves. Some writers don't wait, straight away they start the after process and the long, and difficult journey of editing. I find that if I do that, I'm still too caught up in the universe to be objective. If I can't be objective, then I can't edit and take out what does not belong whilst adding what does. So, I don't find out whether the end is good enough until I've been away from that plot for a while. Even now, whilst working on the sixth DYING THOUGHTS book, I know that I have to rewrite some of the ending for the fourth because of the way things have turned out in the books since. That kind of objectivity wouldn't have happened if I had dived right in. Again, your mileage may vary and I can only say that for me, it doesn't work like that. I am sure there are other writers who find that jumping back in is the best way for them to work. We are all wonderfully different and unique in the way we work.

Now, you've come to the end and it's time to close the book, type the last sentence and say goodbye to the characters that have been in your daily life for how ever long it's been. It's hard to do that, but the ending is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of writing. You've come along the arduous path of starting, writing, living and now you're at the part where you can give your characters what they need to carry on their lives outside of the pages of this particular story. Well done, and remember, that unless they are living in a mountain cave, rocks never fall and kill everyone.

Follow Joey on Facebook and here on her blog to be kept up to date with all the news about book releases and everything else.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Ayla Page - Guest Blogger - The Editing Process


Yesterday, I had a guest blogger talk about what inspires their writing and today we hear from Ayla Page, who is a writer and an editor. You can find her Amazon profile here. She has released two books in the fantasy short story genre and is an indie author. She's just starting out as a professional editor for other indie authors and her Facebook page is here. As always, here's a short bio about Ayla.

"Pictures paint a thousand words, and a thousand words should be used to paint one picture."

Ayla Page was born in West Yorkshire, England on the only snowy day of the year. She moved to Bournemouth on the south coast of England, in 2007 at the age of eighteen to 'seek her fortune'. There she married and had a daughter before moving back up to Yorkshire in 2010.

Now a divorced single mother, Ayla is reading Psychology at university with her eye on a distinguished writing career and the esteemed prizes that accompany such."

The Editing Process
Ayla Page

What's the first thing you do when starting to edit?
Make a cup of tea to have sat beside me! No. I read the first paragraph. I don't touch the page until I've read at least a portion. It means I can get something of a feel for the author's style, before I go ahead and work on it.

So, you've started to edit, where do you do your work?
I used to have a desk. My ex-husband made it for me out of the topside of a vivarium but it was too high and I'd lose the circulation to my feet by having to sit on them to make myself tall enough to reach it! I now sit on the couch with my laptop on my knee. It's quiet in the lounge most of the day, especially at the moment because my daughter is with her father, so I think I'll be staying put.

Now you're all comfy at your desk, how do you edit? Red pen of death? Typing? Do you read through first or edit as you go?
I did have a red pen of death. I've just made that comment to one of my clients. 'I'm off to take my red pen to your work!' It's more the comment now. I prefer to type. Maybe that's because all my red pens ran out? I edit as I go usually. I don't like to read a story twice; I run the risk of skimming the second time and missing things. Therefore I am slow, methodical and very diligent. It makes for quick work, believe it or not.

So you've red penned it to death and you're halfway through, how do you return it to your client? Piece by piece or all at once?
Currently I'm doing a series of shorts for someone. It's the first time I've sent something back in sections. Story by story I've sent her it back. With love, kisses and the hope that she likes what I've done for her!

How does your work week go? Do you do editing at a certain time, like a 9-5 job? Or do you have set times to edit and set times to write your own stuff?
My week is very samey. I get up, sort out my daughter for school, take her, come home and get straight on. I don't 'put down the pen' until the work is done or it's time to collect her from school. When she's home it's rare I can get much done so I don't work while she's up. As soon as she goes to bed, however, I'm straight back at it and I don't stop until the very early hours.
It's different when she's away, though. I don't have the break in the afternoons when she's home from school, so I work straight through from waking up and falling down the stairs for a cuppa until I simply can't keep my eyes open any longer, and plod off to bed.

How did you know you had what it takes to be an editor?
I've written since I can remember, and I've always been frighteningly fussy about spelling, grammar, the works. I was asked to beta-read a friend's book and agreed, despite not having a clue what was expected of me. I went through it 'with the red pen' and fair tore it to pieces. If she reads this, she'll be nodding. She told me I'd be a good editor, and I laughed it off, thinking she was just complimenting me 'cos she's a nice person. Until I was told similar things by other people. In which case I started to take them seriously.

What's your favourite part of editing?
Probably the praise I get at the end! I'm always very concerned I won't do a satisfactory job, so when they tell me they're happy, I'm delighted!

What's your favourite genre to edit?
It's funny you should ask me that. My favourite genre to edit is actually my least favourite genre to read. I always think I do a better job if I'm not interested in the story. I think zombie stories are the easiest for me to edit. So that's probably going to be my favourite.

On the writing side of things, do you edit your own work?
After a fashion. I can't stand to end a sentence unless it's perfect and I'd be happy, as a reader, to read it. I go through several times to check for typos and the like, but I do think it's actually impossible to properly edit your own work. I think you're too familiar with it and will skim over parts because of this. This creates the potential of missing things out.

How long have you been an editor?
On and off for the past six years, but only recently as a main means of income

Which do you prefer? Writing or Editing?
Writing. Hands down. It came first in the grand scheme of things. However, I think that'll be getting put on the back burner now; the editing will do more for me and it means I can earn more at the same time as helping out other authors.

Do you prefer editing long novels or short stories?
Short stories! The feeling of 'done and dusted' comes sooner!
Although it really does depend on the writer's style. I edit novels sometimes where it takes me less time than to edit short stories simply because of the writing style.

Check out Ayla Page on Facebook if you're looking for an editor, she's having a special on prices at the moment!

If you're interested in being a guest blogger then check out this post or email Joey at bugbooks@virginmedia.com with your idea.

Monday 19 August 2013

Dating Stories - The Creative Process

Dating Stories

One of the problems of writing a novel is that it's not something that you just do and then release. Even if you're an indie author and self published, there is still a pretty extensive after process to go through before you can put the work out there in the world. So, no matter what you write in fiction, there is always going to be some dating of the stories. I guess what I should say is when you write, because if it's set in the past, time moving forward will have little effect. However, if you're like me and write in the present (or not too distant future) you'll always find that by the time you get the book on the shelves, there's going to be some out dated parts and dealing with that is what this piece is about.

When I wrote BLACKOUT, it was 2001, I was nineteen and I was finished in ten days. Of course, even though I wrote quickly and felt that the story was finished, it still took four years for it to be published. I didn't stop writing though, even though I had what I needed to approach publishers, I wanted to keep writing and that's what I did. I started the first DYING THOUGHTS book shortly after and of course, despite time moving forward and the book one not being out until 2011, things had certainly changed in the world.

Tara and Kaolin didn't have mobile phones in the first book. There were some people who did, other teens and such, but they weren't as big a thing in 2001 as they are now. Now, pretty much everyone older than nine has a mobile phone and constantly texts each other. Especially those who are at school. Facebook wasn't a thing either, nor twitter and the other social networks that came afterwards. So, looking at that first DYING THOUGHTS book, you would probably think that I messed up pretty bad (or that Tara's Dad was unusually strict) when it became obvious that social networking was not the way Tara and Kaolin kept in touch online. I know that now, in 2013, pretty much everyone has a Facebook and Twitter and so on. Also, with Tara's Dad being a former pop star, you'd also think that it was strange that he didn't have a page dedicated to updates about him. That's the problem with time and writing, you can capture a moment on paper, but by the time you've managed to get it to the point of showing other people - namely your readers - time has moved forward. It stands still for no one.

So, what do you do? There are a few ways to get around obviously dating your work. One is to be vague about the time period it occurs during. When I was published, Facebook and all the other wonders still were only just taking off (if they existed at all) and so in the beginning, it wasn't a problem because the people reading it wouldn't realise it was that out of date. However, as time has moved forward, it has become more and more obvious that Tara, Kaolin, Tally and the others are in a different time period than the readers of today are. With some of my books it doesn't matter, they are standalone and they rarely mention the year in which they are set. I know that a couple do, and some of the information in them, despite there being no date, points to a certain time, it is an unavoidable draw back. Novels don't write themselves and life gets in the way for a lot of writers, meaning that they are unable to bang them out, edit and publish before anyone is any the wiser as to the year in which their story is set. A good example of this is Sue Grafton's ALPHABET SERIES, she writes one book a year and since "W is for Wasted" is out sometime in 2013, it should be obvious to anyone capable of Maths, that she started writing in the early 1980's. Her books are dated, and will stay dated, because when you write a series, you can't move them forward in time unless you want to have huge gaps between one book and the next.

Don't get me wrong, it can be done. I know that Agatha Christie wrote a series of books that aged with the rest of the world. Her characters would grow old as time passed, rather than being trapped within the pages, to grow only when the spotlight was on them. However, there were, as I said, huge gaps between stories, all dependent on how long it took for a book to be finished and released. It works well for her work, but for some writers, like myself and Sue Grafton, we want the time to be a short few weeks or months between stories. This leads to our work being outdated in a short space of time. Especially when you consider just how fast technology changes these days.

As with a lot of things, some works will age better than others. Agatha Christie is well known throughout the world and although she wrote about a different time, people still enjoy to dip in and out of the worlds she created. I feel the same can be said for Sue Grafton's work. Kinsey Milhone is known across the world and popular to boot. You could probably say that, with those two writers in mind, that dating a story is not a bad thing and it isn't. However, sometimes taking out a dated reference (like a movie which may have been all the talk when you wrote the book, but is now long since released) can ease the process of when the story is set. If it weren't for the fact that a girl like Tara would be on Facebook, then the DYING THOUGHTS series may not seem that dated.

It's little tricks like that, or you can go the other way and purposefully set it in a time period and plan for it to be out dated. Choosing when to set your story is a completely different process (found here) and it's all about what works for you. You have to be ready to take out references that date the story if it's not something you wish to be obvious. Yet, you need to remember that once written down and published, everything eventually goes out of date. It's the natural process. So, try not to worry too much about your work becoming out dated, it happens to us all and it shouldn't take anything away from the story you are trying to tell. As always though, your mileage may vary.

Follow Joey on Facebook or here on her blog to be kept up to date about her books, new releases and anything else she can think of.


I have now reached 200 likes on Facebook! In fact, right now it stands at 210 :D So, that means it's time for a give-away!! Since LYNNE & HOPE is now available on Smashwords and other retailers, I thought I would offer a FREE copy in whatever format chosen to the winner! I am also offering a £5 or $5 Amazon Gift Card.

Now, here's what you need to do. I will post a thread with the above picture and you need to chose a number between 1 and 250. On SATURDAY 24TH AUGUST I will CLOSE the thread at 14:00 BST (13:00 GMT) and will then use the number randomiser from random.org to choose a winner. The winner will then have 48 HOURS to message me with their chose of format and email address for me to send the copy to. If I do not hear from them within that 48 hours, I will chose another number.

1. I will use the random number generator from random.org and will post a screen shot of the winning number both here and on my Facebook page
2. You MUST like my Facebook page
3. Entries limited to ONE per person.

4. If the first roll of the number generator is not a number chosen, I will roll again until a winning number is chosen.
5. There is no cash equivalent to this prize and the prize is not transferable to another person.
6. The give-away is run by Joey Paul Online and has nothing to do with Facebook.
7. Give-away entries will only be counted when posted in the official thread.

That's about it, have fun and Good Luck!

Kate Hawkins - Guest Blogger - What Inspires My Writing

A few weeks back I asked for some people to do a guest blog post. Here's the first one from an aspiring writer, Kate Hawkins. She's written about what inspires her writing. You can find her blog here, where she writes about the trials of writing Young Adult Fantasy novels. Here's a short bio from Kate herself:
"My name is Kate, and I live in north Texas. I am a proud member of Upward Bound, a program under the TRiO banner that helps low-income or first generation college students find scholarships, as well as teaches them how to apply and find financial aid for college. They also give tutorials, teach resume writing, and offer two waivers for each SAT/ACT test.
I intend to attend the University of Houston, majoring in their Digital Media program, which encompasses animation, photography, and several other things. Using that degree, I hope to animate things for Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks and write part-time. My first choice was to move to Japan and animate for Bones, but, it was brought to my attention by a member of the dollars-bbs.org forum that the company would hire someone inside the country with more experience. 
I love to watch anime, hence me wanting to work for Bones. I also love to write. In addition to writing, I love reading. My favorite author is Darren Shan (darrenshan.com) and my favorite series by him is City of Trilogy."
What Inspires my Writing
Kate Hawkins

Authors get a lot of questions about writing every day. One of the most commonly asked is probably “What inspires your writing?” In reality, there are a lot of things that inspire an author’s writing. It could be anything from something that was aired on the news to an episode of Long Island Medium to something that happened in their day. I think what they really want to know is how to develop the ideas into decent plots.

For me, it’s easiest to jot down what first gave me the ideas. I’ll use the example of one of my works. The original idea came from a D&D session with a few friends. I’d created a clan with supernatural abilities by that time, and I wanted to use those characters for a story. For inspiration, I began reading fanfiction for various series. Many stories later, I’d compiled enough material to begin writing, even if I still needed a main plot; that would come later. Now again, the inspiration for writing comes from anywhere; I just read the fanfiction because I was actively looking for ideas rather than letting ideas come to me.

So, I began jotting down short, vague notes of what I wanted to put into the story. Once I had that, I developed those notes further, and I solidified them so that they made a good base for the start of the story. By then, I’d gotten short scenes and characters developing in my head, which is generally how my stories begin, even if some of the material is for much later in the story. After all of that had run through my head, it was like a puzzle; I had to figure out how to fit the pieces together.

 Your puzzle may be a bit different than mine. It might be a lot harder to fit together than what mine are, and other puzzles could be a hundred times easier. Still, a puzzle is a puzzle, and it’ll fit together one way or another. You’ve just got to figure out the perfect way to turn and flip the pieces, and eventually you get a beautiful image.

To write a guest blogger piece yourself, check out this post or email Joey at bugbooks@virginmedia.com