Friday 30 May 2014

Spoonie Writer: Writing In Hospital

Spoonie Writer: Writing In Hospital

I have always said that one of the good things about being a writer in addition to having conditions that mean I spend time in the hospital is that I can pick it all up and take it with me. I have my book notes, I have a tablet (and before that, I had a laptop) and as long as I'm feeling well enough, I can write from anywhere. The same can't be said for many other professions. As someone who spends a lot of the time stuck in a bed attached to a variety of machines, it's a blessing on its own that I can write because it gives me something to do to fill the monotonous hours of plain old boredom.

I have become quite the expert at preparing my entertainment during hospital visits. Due to the severity of my conditions and the fact that things can change in a heartbeat, my carer and I have developed a good plan for what needs to be packed into my hospital bag and taken along with me whether I travel by car or ambulance. Here are my four tips for things a spoonie writer should try to take with them when they have to spend time in hospital.

I know that when I first go into hospital, I'm usually not well enough to even think about writing, but having a tablet that is highly portable and loaded up with all my files and information means that when I finally do feel better, I can write bits and pieces here and there. It also means that I can play games when I'm bored and stay connected to the outside world with Facebook and Tumblr. I have a bag that is solely for my book stuff and has a special padded tablet section which means I can keep it all to hand, plus those over-the-bed tables are perfect for such a reason.

Before I had a Kindle, I would have to limit the number of books I could take with me, and my carer would be in charge of replenishing my supply during her daily visits. Now that I do have a Kindle, I can read as much as I like without the worry of not having something to turn to when I finish the last one. It's also a good way to take a break from all the stuff happening surrounding you and it gives you a chance to slip into another world where you don't feel awful.

Other than the obvious reason, having a phone with a 3G connection is essential for when you're in hospital. You need to be able to call a friend when you're having a bad time, but you also need to keep up to date with everything else happening beyond the hospital perimeter. As I said in a previous piece, the world does not stop because you're sick. In terms of writing, it means that you're able to fact check pieces as well as update your Facebook page, and keep in touch with other writers and groups that you're a member of.

And finally, #4 - THE MUNDANE CAN BE DONE
If you're too sick to write, but not so sick that you just sleep all the time, you can get some other, more boring parts of writing done. You can do some research that's easy to dip in and out of. You can compose emails (though don't send them until you're sure they're not full of gobbledygook!) and you can think about plot lines that you've yet to use or that may be coming up in future chapters. All of the stuff that you wouldn't normally have time to do because you're too busy actually writing!

Of course, all of this is dependant on how sick you are, how long you're going to be in hospital and loads of other variables, but this is my essentials list. I also have a portable DVD player and some DVD box-sets that I have seen over and over but can still enjoy because when I'm too sick to concentrate it's nice to have something to fill the quietness without needing me to engage my brain too much. If you have any of your own tips, add them to the comments :D

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Monday 26 May 2014

Review Post - Cedar Woman by Debra Shiveley Welch

I was asked to review Debra's book CEDAR WOMAN, a story about a Native American family and thought that I would include my review here as well. Here's a bit of info about Debra:

Debra is an Amazon Best Selling Author of four books and the recipient of the Faith Writer’s Gold Seal of Approval and Books & Authors Award of Excellence recipient, Books & Authors Best Non Fiction Book – 2007, All Books Reviews Editor’s Choice 2010 and Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011. Her books include:

Cedar Woman, winner of Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011; four time award winner Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher soon to be available in audio; A Very Special Child, an award winning Best Seller on Amazon America and in English at Amazon Japan, and Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, Debra’s first novel, co-authored with Linda Lee Greene, an Amazon Best Seller as well.

Currently Debra is working on Woman Who Sees in Both Worlds – Ista Numpa, a sequel to Cedar Woman.
Christopher Meets Buddy, a children’s book about the proper care of a pet bird, will be available soon. Debra can be reached at
Winner of the Best Native American Fiction Award 2011, Cedar Woman is a powerful book filled with courage, romance and the beliefs, ceremonies and language of the Lakota Sioux.

Travel with her to Columbus, Ohio as she rebuilds her life, and the lives of her family. Join her in the sweat lodge as she follows Zitka Mine to the fifth step of the edge of the world to find her father's soul.

Join her at powwow where she meets her half side. Consultant Julie Spotted Eagle Horse, descendant of Chief Spotted Eagle and Crazy Horse.

My review is below:

CEDAR WOMAN is a romantic tale of a young Native American travelling through life to find her other half, her soul-mate. The story starts in the current time and then takes you back through young Lena's life, even further back to her parents story of how they got together. It is an interesting book which uses Native American words (and gives you phonetic spelling and the meaning) and an insight into the culture of the people.

The story is both sad and happy, with tears of joy you see Lena meet the man she thinks makes her whole, and then tears of sadness as he is taken away. You meet all the people relevant in Lena's life from her childhood friends to the people she meets at her first powwow. There is exquisite detail in the rituals of the Native American's and their history and culture.

The book is well written and is, I think, the first in the series, which means there will be more! Something I look forward to very much! Well-written and includes recipes for Native American foods and drinks. Highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in this culture or loves an historical romance. Great book and I hope there will be more!

You can get your own copies of Cedar Woman on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback! You can also follow Debra on Facebook or on her own blog.

Friday 23 May 2014

Spoonie Writer: Writing Whilst Sick

Spoonie Writer: Writing Whilst Sick
The term "spoonie" was first coined by Christine Miserandino when she wrote The Spoon Theory. It's a term used by many people who have chronic illness to describe what life is like for people like us. I embrace the term as it's a great way to explain the way I live my life whilst being sick. I am, by definition, a spoonie writer.

In recent pieces on my blog, I have written about what it's like to be a writer and be chronically ill (found here, here, & here). I have never really talked about what it's like to have to write whilst being sick. I've talked about writing whilst having chronic pain or chronic fatigue (found here) but I haven't yet touched on what it's like to be a writer, chronically ill as well as "normal" sick and still having to write.

Right now, I am having a few issues with my chronic illnesses that mean that I'm not having a good time health-wise. I'm having to use my nebuliser to keep my breathing under control, pain meds to keep the pain monster at bay and have just started with a different kind of CPAP machine to help with both the fatigue from sleep apnoea as well as the general fatigue from the M.E. To make things all the more hilarious my body seems to have decided that now would be the best time ever to have a cold/chest infection...again! It's a dance I am very familiar with and one that many people with chronic illnesses will be aware of.

However, the world does not stop just because I'm feeling crap. There are still emails to write, blog pieces to compose and books to start, plan and finish. I can take a few days off, but knowing my body, it wouldn't just be a few days, but more like a couple of weeks. So, if I want to get my books finished and all of that jazz, I have to adapt and write even though I feel bloody dreadful! I don't tell you this to garner sympathy or to win awards (though I did win Gold at the Sick Olympics!) but to show people who may not have seen this side of me, or any chronically ill person before.

I had a friend ask me recently when she was feeling particularly crap, with a cold and chest issues of her own, how I managed to be social even though I sounded, and was feeling pretty bad. My response was simply that if I stopped talking to people when I didn't feel well, then I'd never talk to anyone! There does come a point though when you can't just barrel through it all and I'll touch on that in another piece, but suffice to say, when those times happen, you literally have no other choice.

As a spoonie writer I have had to learn when my body has had enough, when it can literally do no more and is holding up the white flag in defeat. One thing many spoonies are told by doctors and nurses, physios and psychologists is that we MUST pace ourselves. They say that there is no point in spending all your spoons on one day because you feel kinda okay and then spending the next few days stuck in bed with a deficit of spoons because you overdid it. As someone who has been battling chronic illness for all of her adult life, I can say that it's true. Once again I utter the words, it's a balancing act.

On any given day I can wake up and not know how many spoons I'll have. I can start with a good number and then do the wrong thing, eat something that doesn't work for me or push myself a little too far in my wheelchair and BAM! My spoons are into the minus and I need to stop and rest. I can also start the day with so few spoons I don't know how I'm going to get anything done, and then be surprised by how rested I feel after a nap - though that rarely happens. It's hard to hold down any kind of job when you don't know from one day to next - hell, even one hour to the next - how you're going to feel. It's one of the reasons that being a writer has worked so well for me. I can work when I feel well enough to, and I can take time off when I don't feel well enough.

Hang on, I hear you cry, didn't you just say that you have to keep going even though you feel awful? Yes, I did and I wasn't lying. Sometimes there are things that can't be put off. Either a blog post or a book signing or a promotion or a deadline and no matter how understanding people are, you can't just pull out. It's times like those that you do have to weigh up the options and decide if the payback is worth the risk. The majority of the time it isn't, but sometimes you have to do it anyway, just as you would if you were a healthy person who had a cold or infection. The world does not stop or even slow down if you're sick and when you're sick all the time it seems to speed up slightly.

So yes, it's a balancing act and writing whilst sick is something that's somewhat more manageable than other jobs, but still there are so many times when I sit at my desk and all I can think is "I feel crap, I wish I could go to bed!" but deadlines and commitments mean that it's not possible. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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

Friday 16 May 2014

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Outsourcing Is Expensive

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Outsourcing Is Expensive

When you get published by a traditional publishing house, you get a lot of stuff done for you, as I've talked about in my series of the After Process (links can be found here). When you go with a small publishing press or as an indie author, a lot of things fall to you (again discussed here). One of those things is paying for stuff like an editor, cover art, taxes and all that jazz. It also means that if you want to give away books or any other kind of "swag", then you're paying for that out of your own pocket too.

As an indie author, I've had to find my own editor, who I pay per book, as well as a cover artist, who I also have to pay. I also designed and paid for my bookmarks and all the other giveaways I do for for promotion. Basically, it's not cheap to market your own books and it comes at a cost, one which for some people is not something they are willing or able to do, and I respect that wholeheartedly.

For me it was not an easy choice, but at the same time I didn't lie awake at night worrying about it. Due to my many health problems, I am not able to work to the same deadlines that would be expected of me through a traditional publishing house. Although I do have deadlines I have to meet, they are beyond flexible because I'm in charge of them. 

I try to write four chapters (two of each book) over a two week period. You'll have seen me mention my progress on my Facebook page. Some weeks I do really well and do what I call "bonus" chapters. Other weeks it's a struggle to get the chapters done and I find that when I get into the last hours of the fortnight, I start to meet roadblocks with my writing. It's only when I take the pressure off that I'm able to start writing again. So for me, using a traditional publisher was not something I could do. I made the choice to go Indie and it's not one I regret because it's the best fit for me. Your mileage may, of course vary, and that's great.

The point is that part of being an indie author is working for yourself in many ways. You need to make sure you have what people need to get yourself noticed. So I have swag for giveaways and I offer up free books for both my own and other authors promotional events. It's all about getting yourself noticed and the word about your work out there and into the public eye. I haven't yet cracked the code to instant success, but I'm happy with what I'm doing.

It's not just those things that make being an indie author an expensive choice but the little things that you don't think of, like doing your own website stuff, or organising a blog book tour. You can hire someone to help you and/or do it for you, but that costs money too. I can't speak for authors who are published through smaller presses, but I know that for me being an indie author means that a lot of the final bills rest at my feet. I made the choice and I'm happy with it and for that reason I stick with it, but man, outsourcing is expensive!

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

Saturday 10 May 2014

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Sleep Is Optional, Right?

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Sleep Is Optional, Right?

It's amusing to me that not two hours ago I was writing a piece about the trials of a crime writer. I was typing away, happy as a clam, feeling on top of all the work that comes with being both a writer and an indie author. I figured I would finish a chapter or two and then head to bed with a book, read for a few hours and be happily asleep by midnight. Only it seems my body had other ideas. It's now 23:33 and it doesn't look like I'll be getting much, if any, sleep tonight.

It reminded me that I had planned to write a piece on how sleep seems to be optional when you're a writer. It links back to the many hats an indie author has to wear (and I did a piece about that here) and how because we don't have a whole marketing team et al, we seem to have to do the jobs that other authors would be able to delegate. Case in point, it's past my bed time and I'm working on blog pieces and emails. The job is all encompassing and never ending. It feels like every time I've "caught" up with myself, something else comes along and I'm back with a heavy work load.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't dislike my job and I don't resent my choice to become an indie author. It wasn't a hard choice for me for many reasons, the flexible work schedule being one of them. If I lived in a perfect world, I would probably have someone else who could do the 7am starts and the school run, but I don't and I have to do those myself. If I didn't, then I really wouldn't take issue with being up late most nights writing away. Plus there's the added bonus that when I can't sleep because of pain issues or general insomnia, then I always have something to do with my time.

I sometimes joke with my close friends about how my body seems to think that breathing is optional. As a lifelong severe asthmatic, I've had my fair share (and a few other people's fair shares too) of times when it would be a lot easier if I could quit struggling to breathe and still live to tell the tale. Thankfully I have never stopped breathing all together, though I have come close a few times, but anyone who has fought through an asthma attack knows how terrifying and utterly exhausting it is to fight against your body to draw your next breath. The same, in a way, can be applied to being a chronic fatigue sufferer, along with chronic pain. It's exhausting being fatigued and in pain all the time, it saps away at your strength and at times the easiest things feel like you're running a marathon.

No, I don't regret becoming an indie author and I love the many different parts of my job, but sometimes I do wonder if I could get more time to write if I were able to spend less time trying to sort out my whacked up sleep cycle. It feels like at times I spend precious writing time trying to get back onto a normal 'work during the day/sleep at night' schedule and as you're all aware, I'm not good with schedules as it is. The reasoning behind being up tonight is a mixture of pain, general insomnia and the fact that for a good couple of hours I was in the "zone" (a piece about it can be found here). I was worried that if I stopped for even a short break to do something essential such as sleep, that when I came back to it I would be blocked or would not be able to do the scene justice.

Right now I'm working through my process. Just before I write a death or vision scene, I like to give myself time to work through it in my head. Sometimes it takes only a few minutes, other times I stew over it for days. Tonight though, I am very close to being ready to type it out. It won't be perfect, it never is, but hopefully though it will create less work in the editing stage than if I just went straight ahead and opened a line directly from my brain to my fingers and allowed them to type the first things that popped into my thoughts.

We all have a process for how we do things, mine has been honed over the thirteen or so years that I've been writing and I like to think that I'm getting better at it. Time will tell if that's true or not and maybe I'll look back in another ten years and cringe at myself, but for now I'm happy to declare that right now, sleep is optional as I'm off to create someone's last moments on paper. I can sleep when I'm dead, right?

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

Tuesday 6 May 2014

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Maybe I Should Get A Hobby...

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: Maybe I Should Get A Hobby...

When you spend as much time as I do thinking about death, robbery, assaults and other assorted criminal enterprises, you start to wonder if it's "normal". The short answer is that no, it's probably not, but then again, when you have a somewhat healthy outlet for those thoughts, is it really that big a problem? I know what you're thinking, acting out any kind of crime that involves hurting someone else is not healthy no matter how you do it, but for a crime and mystery writer, it's the best way I have so I'm gonna stick with it.

I know I'm not alone in this because there are many other crime writers (and even people who aren't) who sit at home and think up ways to kidnap people, hold them hostage, possibly kill them and get away with it. I know that just because I'm not alone doesn't mean I don't have a problem, but for the moment I'm okay with that. While I would never really kidnap someone and play out my fictional story lines, people pay good money to read about them, so I guess it's more the human race that's unhealthy and not just me!

However, I do think sometimes that maybe I should channel my creative forces into something a bit more productive - like cross stitching or scrap-booking. I do play a little Ukulele and I do cross stitch too, but the majority of my life is taken up with either writing, thinking about writing or doing the admin work that comes from being an indie author. (That's a piece for another day!) I find that because of my health conditions, and the debilitating pain and fatigue I experience on a daily basis, I just don't have the energy to do hobbies, uni work and keep up with my writing. I know that it's probably not all that healthy to focus on the two important ones - uni work and writing - but thankfully, I'll be graduating from uni after five years in October and will have my degree. I figure once I'm done, I'll have all the time in the world to write and be able to spend time on less murderous activities.

That's not to say that I don't love what I do, I honestly don't know what I would be doing if I wasn't a writer. After being retired at nineteen and told that I would probably never be well enough to work in a conventional nine-to-five job again, I turned to writing to fill my "retirement" years. At thirty-two now and no better health wise (actually, I'm worse but that's a story for another time), I have found that my time is closely monitored to make sure that I get my required rest time as well as do the best I can do with my writing. I do like to do the occasional cross-stitch and I also love to read during the times I'm not well enough to work. That's another hobby I suppose. I spend a lot of time reading books by fellow indie authors as well as many traditionally published authors too. I like to lose myself between the pages of someone else's worlds, characters and adventures and while I mostly read crime and mystery, I have been known to go for something a little more light-hearted.

When you're a crime junkie like me, you'll find that you see inspiration everywhere. You read a news report about someone faking their own death and you wonder about how you can weave a similar crime into your own work. Same with many other aspects of everyday life. There have been numerous conversations I've had with people that have found their way, in some form or another, into my work. The human condition is that crime happens, the writer's condition is that you see inspiration in everyday life and you use it for the greater good. I'm sure many other writer's will agree with me when I say that although hobbies such as making cards or crafts would be a better use of our creative talent, they just don't do it for us. Our creative flow needs to be in the written word; basically, we're word nerds and proud of it. But maybe I will look into a hobby...

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