Thursday 26 September 2013

Questions From Readers - Part Four

A few weeks ago, Joey asked on her Facebook page for anyone with questions to email her about her books, being a writer, being disabled and anything else. This is the first batch of answers, feel free to send your own questions to Joey via email to and she'll include them in the next post she does.

Why doesn't Tara lay down when she knows she's getting a vision?
That's a good question and it was actually this one that sparked my decision to ask for more questions. I was recently asked by one of my beta readers why, when Tara knows she's going to get a vision, doesn't she lie down? I explained that although she's smart enough to know that she's going to have something like a seizure and could end up with a lot of bruises, it's never been something that I've thought of before. I can say that the area in which she has her visions in Mike's office has been cleared so the only things there are her chair and the floor. I realise that I may not have made it clear in the books and will make a note to mention it in later books. I guess I could also say that sometimes she's caught up in the moment. One such example is in THIRD WISH, when she was at work and no one else knew that she would have seizures. Lying down wasn't something she could do without drawing attention to the fact that she'd know that she was going to have one. I do admit to the mistake though in regards to the ones she brings on herself either in private, or when working a case with Mike.

Is there any particular order to your books?

This is another question I got before opening the floor up for other questions. The standalone books, such as BLACKOUT and LYNNE & HOPE don't have any particular order. Although there is a little Easter egg in LYNNE & HOPE that would only be spotted by those who have read BLACKOUT, they are written completely separate and can be read in any order. However, the DYING THOUGHTS series books go in a particular order, and are numbered, although I do hope that they could be read out of order and not confuse the reader too much.

When is the next book going to come out? What's it about?

The next book is scheduled to be released in June or July of 2014. It's a different kind of book, as it doesn't fit into the crime and mystery genre. It is young adult, but is more of a romance book and it's about two teenagers who come from completely different lives. One is well off and in a loving home, the other lives in a tiny village and faces both bullying at school and some emotional and mental abuse at home. They meet online and under the guise of rescuing the other, they meet up.

Where's your favourite writing spot?

I don't really have a favourite spot. I feel that I can write anywhere if the mood takes. The bulk of my work is done on my home PC in my office, but I can also be found writing at the local Starbucks, Costa and soft play areas. I have made myself pretty much mobile because of the time I find I spend in hospital and I don't like that to stop the flow of creativity.

What's favourite part of being a writer?

My favourite part is that I get to tell stories for a living. I can create people from nothing and make them do what I want. I can plot and carry out murders, and I can also make sure those who commit them usually pay for their crimes. As I wrote in a recent guest blog, I've done many things as a writer and I love the creative side of it most of all.

Why do you write your books so far in advance?

As most of you will have read, I am disabled and chronically ill. Some weeks I'll write a chapter a day and other times, I'll only manage half of one in a fortnight. My life is so up and down because of the conditions I suffer from that I find it easier to write when I can and part of that means writing when the inspiration strikes and not restricting myself too much.

How long does it take from finished book to editing to publication?

Ah, well that will depend on the book. Generally speaking, once I finish a book, I save it and leave it until a year before it's due to be published. At which point I will go through it and make sure it's telling the story the way I want it to. After that it goes off to my editor, Kim, who reads through it and sends back corrections and we have many a discussion over Skype about any issues such as plot holes or grammar stuff. Once that's done and all the corrections have been made, I'll offer it out to advance readers, who not only get a free copy of the book, but also get to tell me if there is anything in it that has been missed by either me or my editor. Kim does an excellent job - you should see the state the books start in! Once it's gone through all of those stages, we decide on a publication date - usually within a month - and go from there with promotion and all of that.

How much time do you spend writing every day?

As I said above because of my chronic conditions, it really does depend on how good I'm feeling. However, an average good day involves at least some writing. It's not all book writing though, some of it is blog pieces or guest blog posts. Interviews come under that heading too as well as making posts on Facebook to connect with readers. If I'm having a bad day, then it's very rare that any writing gets done. I try to do four chapters a fortnight and generally speaking, I usually manage it. Sometimes I do more and declare those as "bonus" chapters, other times it's a struggle to get the first four done.

Do you have any tips for developing an idea into an actual book?

This is a hard question to answer. I know how I go about developing ideas, but I do believe that you have to find what works for you. Ideas for me start as just a general outline, if they are going to be turned into books then I need to know that they are big enough to be moulded into chapters and a storyline. Some ideas stay as just that, whereas others start out with a load of notes and planning and then never get past the first few chapters because the story is not fleshed out enough. I usually do come back and use the characters or try again to do something with it. It's mostly trial and error and you have to keep pushing yourself and trying new ways to flesh the ideas out before you give up completely, or find something that works for you.

What do you prefer, indie or traditional publishing?

I think both have a number of positives and negatives surrounding them. It really is a personal choice, I prefer being an indie author because it gives me a lot of control over release dates, prices, formats and the people I work with. That said, traditional publishing takes a lot of the pressure off the author because you have a publishing house behind you who are able to do the promotion, the cover design, the editing and so on. I think that as a lot of people are discovering that indie publishing works just as well, it is coming into its own, but that doesn't mean that I think every writer should go indie just because I personally find it works for me. It is a matter of weighing up your options and making a decision based on your own circumstances.

What's your favourite animal?
I am torn between monkeys and primates. While I love monkeys and think they are all adorable, I also find primates to be very cute. I am planning on visiting the monkey sanctuary in Cornwall in November if possible because I know they cater for both. Friends have adopted monkeys from zoos in the past for birthday and Christmas presents. I have also sponsored primates through the WWF. On my bucket list I plan to own one hundred stuffed monkeys and I'm halfway there already, but of course I included primates in that ;-)

What kind of books do you prefer to read?

I love to read crime/mystery books, but I also like "Chick-Lit" and romance novels. I'm not really into vampires and other supernatural or fantasy books, but if the cover catches my eye, I'll usually give the back a read at least.

What kind of shows do you watch?

I watch mostly crime procedural shows as well as some medical shows like Grey's Anatomy. I am a big fan of shows like NCIS, NCIS: LA and Castle, but I do like some sci-fi shows like Doctor Who, Torchwood, Fringe and Warehouse 13. I like some reality shows, but ones like Nothing To Declare or Sun, Sea and A&E - the ones where people are doing a job, not the ones like X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent. 

What kind of tablet do you have and what writing software do you use?

I have a Versus Touchtab 10.1 and I love it! It's lightweight and easy for me to slip into my writing bag and take out and about. I have used a few writing programs, one of which was Kingsoft Office, which is free from the Google Play Store. My only reason for switching was that it didn't import all the punctuation from the Word documents. Now I use Office Suite Professional 7, which was about £10, but I have found it works well for me and keeps the formatting that I want.

Those are all the questions for today. If you want to send any for Joey to answer, feel free to submit them to Follow Joey on her Facebook page or here on her blog to be kept up to date with all the latest news regarding Joey and her books.

Monday 23 September 2013

Working Nine to Five - The Creative Process

Working 9 to 5

Before I became a writer, I worked a number of different jobs. I worked in a call centre, in a supermarket, as a factory line packer, even in the local Magistrates court. I did a lot of working shifts, as well as lot of just working nine to five (more like eight to four, but you get what I mean). When my life changed (piece here) and I could no longer work a "normal" job, I had to relearn how to work in a sense. My body did not respond the way I wanted it to when I tried to set up a routine and so, along side learning to be retired and unable to work the normal hours, as well as learning to accept being chronically ill, I had to learn how to get the most out of the hours that I could work.

Something I have learnt through one of my university courses was that there are three kinds of people in regards to sleep and productivity. There are the morning Larks, the night Owls and the ones in between. It's actually a science thing, but it's relevant to this piece. When I first got sick with M.E, I had gone from being a morning Lark - always up at 7am, working through to the mid-afternoon before I got into a little bit of a funk - to being the something in-between and sometimes, a night owl. I think you'll find that a lot of people with chronic conditions have this issues where they never know which one of those three they are going to be on any given day.

If you're a morning Lark, you'll find that you are able to wake early, go about your day and rise with the sun. It will probably mean that you work efficiently before the rest of the household has gotten up and about. You'll also probably find that you feel a bit of a drag once midday and the afternoon hits. There are many ways to work through this, but the best one I can think of is that you take advantage of the hours when you are awake and able to work. The beauty of having a job like writing, is generally speaking, you can work when and where you want.

This also applies if you're not awake before nine or even ten in the morning, if you're a night Owl and find that you do your best work as the rest of the world is going to sleep, manage your schedule around it. The fact of the matter is, writing should not be a nine to five job, unless that works for you. If it does, then great, but with more and more writers finding it hard to support themselves solely on the money they make in royalties, the likelihood is that you're going to have to find time in your working life to actually do any writing.

As someone who has been all three types, and continues to be surprised every day by which type I wake up to be, I can honestly say that sometimes it is only an hour here, thirty minutes there and that's okay for me. As you'll have seen from my most recent piece, I have a majority of chronic illnesses that dictate how I write and when. I guess what I am trying to say, is that just because your job dictates when and where you can write, it doesn't mean that you are any less of a writer. Whether you decide to fit in all your writing at the weekend and spend the rest of the week only writing things in your hear. Or if you're someone who makes time early in the morning or late at night to get some work done once the kids and partner are already in bed. Whether you're a single mum on benefits writing in a cafe, or a disabled person writing from bed. None of these things prevent you from saying "I'm a writer".

Enjoy your hours that you can spend creating and down worry about the small stuff like how much time you have to write. Pieces of art take months, sometimes years to create, and a book is just as worthy of that title as any painting or statue. Enjoy what you do, it will show in your work and you never know, that lottery win might be around the corner so that you'll be able to quit the day job and write to your heart's content!

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

Thursday 19 September 2013

Being a Writer & Being Chronically Ill - The Creative Process

Being a writer & being chronically ill

When I started writing, it wasn't by design. As you'll all know from my guest blog post that I did about my writing path (link here) I had a lot of things that went wrong for me to find that writing was what I was meant to do. Of those things, a lot of them were health related. This piece is about what it's like being a writer while being chronically ill.

Before I can really start talking about what it's like to be both a writer and disabled with chronic conditions, I really need to explain what those conditions are, so please bear with me and read the links if you want to know more. The first and most serious condition is Type One Brittle Asthma. I was born with asthma and it turned brittle when I was seven. After over twenty years of living with this condition, I'd say that I'm as used to it as I'm ever going to be. I also have Myalgic Encephalopathy aka M.E or CFS. I was diagnosed at nineteen and am now thirty-one. M.E came into my life and turned it upside down, making what had seemed "normal" something that would never exist again. Alongside that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FMS) shortly after. Although I was only diagnosed at twenty, I have probably had the condition for most of my life. I am unable to remember a time when it didn't hurt and while that may seem sad and horrible, it's something I am used to and am able to continue my life despite that. Those are the three "big" conditions that affect my life, but I also have Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD), Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Vestibular Dysfunction and depression. I use a walker inside the house most of the time, and a wheelchair the rest of the time. I live in a specially adapted house and have a full time carer, who just happens to also be my best friend of nearly twenty years.

Now that that is all out of the way, I can get on with the purpose of this piece, what is it like to be a writer, whilst being chronically ill. I know a lot of people who are writers and I know a lot of people who are also chronically ill. Some of those people overlap and I also know of disabled writers. It's a profession that attracts different people from all walks of life. The stories don't care that you need oxygen to breathe. They don't care that you can't walk. They also don't care if you're in so much pain you can't sleep. They don't care about what time you arrive to work and they don't care if you don't come in for days at a time. All they care about is being told.

When I was medically retired from the workforce at nineteen and I was faced with the option of never working again, I turned to writing and have since made it my career. Being chronically ill and being a writer is something that to me makes a lot of sense. I get to work, I get to take those stories that bug me just as I am closing my eyes, and I get to bring them into the world and show people what they whisper into my ears. I write because it's something I love to do. It's something that I can't imagine not doing. While I may never be able to work a conventional job, writing, despite its demands, does not reject me the way an employer would. Who wants to hire someone who spends five days out of seven sleeping one week and doing half days the next?

Writing enables me to set my own schedule, it allows me to be productive whilst still getting the rest I need. It's a job that makes me smile, makes me think of how lucky I am to be able to do this. It doesn't always pay the bills, but it does mean that when people say "so what do you do?" I don't have to reply "not much!" Some weeks I will write and write and feel like I have to learn to grow two more hands so I can type faster. Other weeks, my health will stop me from being able to do that and it sucks, but it's part of life when you have a chronic illness.

Part of life with a chronic illness means that you have to be careful where you spend your energy. A good way to explain this is by using the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. Some days I have an abundance of spoons that allow me to pretty much live in what I call the "normal" but what you would probably refer to as "pretty damn sick". That means that I can write, or read or do uni work. Other days my spoons will be moderate and I'll be what people call "even damn sicker" and then I'll have to be careful about which tasks I choose to do, on those days writing and uni work still get done, but sometimes it's from the comfort of bed. The only other times are when my spoons are low and am what people call "almost dead practically" and I don't really do anything other than sleep, sleep and sleep some more. Those days the only writing that gets done is the writing I do in my dreams, which is a shame because I'm pretty good at having whacked out dreams!

That is another reason why I chose to go indie and set up the Bug Books label, it allowed me to work at my own pace, and not have to sweat too much about deadlines. It does have it's downsides in that I have a LOT of promo stuff to do and find that I struggle with it. However, I have some money in the budget to hire an assistant for when things get too much. That's another part of being chronically ill, you have to be willing to delegate. My best friend, B became my carer when I got sick because she's a pretty awesome person. She's also my graphic artist and designs all my front covers. I have another friend who is employed as the editor for Bug Books and another few volunteers who work as proof readers and general stuff like that. Promotion may fall into my lap, but I also know that I could (and eventually will have to) reach out to the support system and ask for help. Whether you are a writer, or work a conventional job, when you're chronically ill, you have to know when to ask for help. I am blessed with the support system I have. They enable me to keep mobile, whilst at the same time, support me with all the crap that comes from having multiple conditions. I know that if I need someone to come with me to the latest hospital appointment or visit me, I can ask one of them, whether they come in person or over the phone or on Skype. It's something that all people with health issues need and I am very lucky to have.

The other good thing is the technology these days, when I first started writing, it was on a PC. I eventually got a laptop and could use that away from home, in hospital stays and on holiday for example. It was hard though because it was heavy and sometimes it just took too much out of me. I still use a PC when I'm at home, but I also have a 10.1 inch tablet that I was able to get earlier this year. It meant that I was able to write pretty much anywhere so long as I had my work bag with me. I wrote in Starbucks, in soft play areas and even in bed when the spoons were too low. It has allowed me to write both on holiday and in the hospital. Considering that the Fibromyalgia stops me from being able to hold a pen and write more than a couple of words at a time, being able to type on a small, light, portable tablet is excellent.

So, as someone who has been chronically ill more than she has been healthy, being able to do a job where you're able to work around the hurdles that ill health put up is better than you can imagine. I love writing, I have so many stories to tell and plan to continue telling them until I run out of space on my computer - even then I'll probably continue! Using a wheelchair or a walker, using a computer or a tablet, it doesn't matter to me because this is what I was supposed to do. Working around the low spoon days and still accomplishing what you set out to do, means more to me than having a job that works a nine to five shift. Although it was because of being diagnosed with M.E and Fibromyalgia, that doesn't change the fact that my conditions don't define who I am. I am a writer, and I love it.

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

Sunday 8 September 2013

Deadlines, Schedules & Routines - The Creative Process

Deadlines, Schedules & Routines

Everyone who has ever had an education knows about deadlines. They also know about schedules and most of them will also know about routines. I wanted to cover all three of these in this piece and will try to separate them, but sometimes they all mean the same thing, or at least led to the same goal.

A deadline is something that can be used to motivate a writer. It can be that time in the distance when you'll have to turn in your first draft. It can work for them, or if you're like me, it can cripple them. I do not do well with deadlines. It's not that I never use them, I mean that if I tell myself, or an agent or publisher tells me, you have to finish this job by X date, then I find it extremely hard to work. I have always been a writer that works to her own pace. I do set myself deadlines, you'll have seen the "chapters of the fortnight" on my Facebook page. I try to write two chapters of each book every two weeks. That's  a deadline technically, and it does help me. Sometimes I'll manage all four within a week and will move on to "bonus" chapters.

So, I hear you ask, why have I stated that deadlines cripple me? Simple. If it's a deadline that I can work towards with minimal pressure - the chapters of the fortnight will not make or break me, for example - then I find that I do not feel pressured and stressed when I can't work towards it. I get obsessed with daily word counts and ultimately fall behind. That's when I start to come apart at the seams. What if I don't make it? What if because I don't make it then I fail? These are all things that go through my head and eventually, I just flop down on the floor and give up. Or I work myself too hard, and my body gives up. Either way I'm on the floor, and no writing is happening.

Some writers find deadlines a great motivator. They move closer and manage to create their work with ease. I am fully aware that I am not one of them. Still, which ever type of writer you are, you're going to have to find a way to work to some sort of deadline. If you're an indie writer then you have a bit of leeway as you're able to set your own deadlines, and usually you only have yourself to answer to should you not meet them. It's a win-win situation, and it's one of the reasons I meet the deadlines I set myself.

Alongside deadlines, you'll have a schedule. A way to keep on track because it's a Monday and you do writing for an hour here and half an hour there. You slip into a routine of what you need to do, and a way to keep doing it. If you've got an upcoming deadline, you can alter your plan and slip out of routine for a week or so to get what you need done. The trick is, once again, the balancing act of how strict you are with your plan and how deep your routines go.

Some writers will find that they can stick to a loose schedule. They plan to write for three hours a day, but they will do it when the mood strikes. There is no set time or place to write and others will pretty much have every waking hour organised into a time table. I'm a mix of the two. I have a goal of what needs to be done each day, and I fit my writing in. I aim to do two hours of writing a day, but alongside my university work and other commitments, while there is some semblance of routine, it's not always the same time day in and day out.

I also use a "to-do" list which I set at the beginning of the fortnight of everything that I have to get done. I record uni work, book work, hobbies and other things like doctors appointments and seeing friends. I then cross off each thing piece by piece. That way I can look at it on days when I feel as if I have done nothing, and see that actually, I may have had a lazy day, I'm on track. You could say that it's a kind of flexible schedule with its own deadlines built in.

Of course, deadlines such as release dates can not always be avoided. If you plan to release your book, then you need to be able to do the relevant promotion. To do that, you need to have some idea of when it will be ready to be published. Which means you need to know when the editing will be done and when you'll have finished doing everything needed. Those kinds of deadlines I do work well with.

So, when you're writing, be kind to yourself. Don't pile on deadlines when they can be avoided, unless you need that kind of motivation to get writing, in which case, go for it. It's fine to set up a schedule and get into a routine, but you need to be aware that these things need to be somewhat flexible. As always, your mileage may vary and have fun creating your new worlds.

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Tuesday 3 September 2013

Choosing Your Writing Spot - The Creative Process

Choosing Your Writing Spot

They say that when you want to be productive, you need to have a good place to make the production happen. That's what I'm going to write about today. How do you know where the best place to write is? Do you want to set up an office or writing corner? Or do you want to be flexible with where you work? Just want a place you go to when you want to escape and write? I'm going to try and cover all of that, but I may miss some, just give me a poke, I'll probably have fallen asleep or something!

So, you've got an idea. You've planned down to the last detail. You have everything ready, and now you just need to decide where that perfect place to work is. Yet, you don't know if you need to have a unique spot or just a table at the local Starbucks or equivalent. I have always been a desk person, and up until 2010, I only had a small desk that would only fit my desktop. I usually did my writing on my there or on my laptop. Things have changed, but going back to getting set up.

When I first started writing, I just used a corner of a table, I set up a mini office space and used that every day, and it was fine. When I moved in 2003 and had my own place, I did all my writing by hand, and typed it up onto the computer while editing it later. I wrote in front of the TV, in the kitchen, I wrote in bed and anywhere I saw fit. It wasn't until later that I started typing rather than writing and to begin with I just wrote at my desk in a corner of my living room.

Enter a baby and things all changed. I got a laptop for university and took it, and myself, to a friend's house where I was given all the tea I could drink, and for one day a week I could write in peace. That was my writing day and the rest of the week I just did dribs and drabs when I could tune out the noise. When I finally moved into a house rather than a flat, and the baby had her own room, and me my own office, things started to get a little more controlled and planned.

I had this wondrous invention, it was a wooden door that I could close and make people knock before they entered. I wrote mostly in there on my massive corner desk that has space for a laptop, a desktop and numerous other things I deem "essential" to my work. Occasionally I would take my laptop and go and sit in the sun while having tea at Starbucks, and that would make a nice break every once in a while. My writing spot has always been somewhat mobile. I saw no point in sticking to one place and one routine because life has a funny way of getting in the way when you plan things like that. It wasn't really until child went to school full time that I started to have "working" hours and even that was dependant on university and my health.

In the last few weeks, now that I have a tablet to write with, I have experimented with a number of places to write. It is a wondrous thing to be able to carry my work in a light bag, press one button and instantly I can start where I left off. The wonders of technology. Of course, having tried to write on a boat, at soft play areas and other such places, I can tell you that no one can tell you where the best place for YOU to write is. I personally find it hard to concentrate at times. If I'm writing on my computer, I'll get distracted with shiny internet things (as seen here). If I force myself to go out to a cafe or something to write, I feel that I'm spending money, and the pressure starts to mount, and that does not lead to productivity.

It may be that for some people, writing a schedule detailing when, where and for how long, works for them. I have somewhat of a schedule, it's more  fluid because there are times when you have small ones and health conditions. Something you'll learn is even though you say that you will work nine to three every week day, it is not always an obtainable goal. The main point I'm trying to make here is that writing should be something you enjoy. At least, it shouldn't be something you dread every time you sit down at the computer/writing desk/tablet etc. I know that writers have  days when they fall short of their goal. There are also times when it feels like you're pulling teeth and all you've managed to write is a couple of lines. However, the aim of the game is to enjoy. You need to be able to breathe and not panic because the little one was sick and you had to go and collect them from school or something.

It is easy to fall into the trap where you set yourself a number of words a day. Where you decide that you absolutely, without fail, MUST write 2,500 words a day. It's great in theory, but when you apply too much pressure to even the most productive of people, eventually they will snap. That's not to say that it isn't a good idea to apply some pressure. The amount though will depend on the person. I am not too good with deadlines, I get anxious and critical and just wind myself too tightly, but I do set myself goals with the knowledge that not meeting them is not a failure, it just means life got in the way.

So, when choosing your writing spot, it's good to know what you hope to achieve whilst in that spot. It's good to try a few different ones, it's good to have some semblance of a routine (unless that doesn't work for you, in which case, don't!) and it's good to set deadlines and goals. You just have to make sure that they are reachable, and not too much pressure for your own comfort. As always, your mileage may vary, but feel free to share where your favourite writing spot is in the comments below :D

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