Monday 29 September 2014

Writing Characters - Angelina & Zack

Writing Angelina & Zack

It was 2007 when I first put pen to paper and wrote the opening sentences of WAITING ON YOU. I was in a long distance relationship that would ultimately end before I completed the book, but I was always clear about what I wanted the book to say, and whose story I wanted to tell. With the book already released in the summer, I figured now would be a good time to tell you what it was like to write the two main characters, Angelina and Zack.


Angelina is a fourteen year old in a very difficult situation. She has no friends at school (through no fault of her own), and spends most of her time dreaming of the day that "Prince Charming" will fall head over heels in love with her and whisk her away from her dreadful life. Her mother is an alcoholic who doesn't seem to care whether her daughter's happy and her sisters both seem to live to make her as miserable as possible. They live in a council house, survive on whatever money her mum doesn't spend on alcohol and a lot of responsibility sits on Angelina's shoulders. Her sisters don't seem to want to contribute to buying her new clothes or making sure she eats, and they also lay a lot of pressure on her to look after them as well. She is a fourteen year old turning forty.

So, when she gets a chance to go online and make "real" friends she takes that chance and sees it as the start to a whole new life for her. In a way she's right, it is a new beginning, but no matter how much we may wish that the virtual world of the internet is real and safe, it's not and in reality, well, it sometimes sucks.

She wasn't a hard character to write. I imagined her as a thin, pale and sickly looking girl who may have come across as distant and aloof to her class mates, which is one reason why none of them have welcomed her with open arms. The issues Angelina face happen all around the world, her father has never been in her life and people seem to blame her for that. Whilst I am sure that a lot of what she thinks other people feel about her isn't true, sadly some of it is. She's a sad, scared little girl really, who just wants her mum to wake up and realise that she's drowning in the deep end with no one to rescue her.

Which brings us to Zack...


Zack is sixteen and his life could not be more different to Angelina's. He lives with his parents and siblings in a nice house in London. His mum works, and his Dad is a respected surgeon. He's never known what it's like to go hungry, nor has he really experienced bullying. He's the second oldest child in his family and has a few good friends. However, that same level of responsibility is resting on his shoulders too. He makes sure that his four younger siblings get to and from school okay, cooks, cleans and makes sure everyone is fed, watered and in bed by the time his parents get home from work. He doesn't seem to mind it too much, but for me, it still feels like that there is more responsibility on him than there should be for a sixteen year old. However, Zack doesn't see anything wrong with it as his older brother had the same job when he was still at secondary school.

His family is loving, caring and always there for each other. Zack has his exams in the summer and knows that once he starts college, the responsibilities he carries will be handed to the next in line. He's already got a bunch of friends in the chat room where he meets Angelina and he's got a bit of a saviour complex. Always wanting to help, to make sure everyone is okay.

As a character, he was my first male main character and I was worried I would find it harder to write a teenage boy, but once I got into the swing of things, it all seemed to click into place and Zack grew as a character and a person before my very eyes. This book was my first attempt at a romance without any other crime or mystery sub-plots and I do think I managed to capture the story well.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. One thing I love about releasing one a year, and having so many already written is that I get to look back a few years later and rediscover my characters and their stories hidden in the pages. Please feel free to drop me a review once you've read the book!

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

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Choosing Your Editor - The After Process

Choosing Your Editor

I have recently started adding to my pieces about the after process, which I mostly wrote around this time last year. I did a whole piece dedicated to the process of editing (found here) as well as one about beta readers. While it'll be easy enough for you to find those pieces as they're linked in my blog, I thought I would post some thoughts about what you want to look for when choosing your editor. I'm basing these suggestions on my own experience and the fact that I am an Indie author so have a lot of control over who I use as my editor.

My editor is a dear friend of mine and we kinda fell into the arrangement that she would become my full time editor. I release, usually, one book a year in the summer and so we work the rest of the year to get the next release ready. She is a gold mine of an editor and while I do have a proofreader as well, my books wouldn't be anywhere near as good as they are if it weren't for Kim. So, having said that, here's some advice for those of you who have not yet been lucky enough to find a great editor who works with you.


For me, it's not just a case of sending Kim my book and telling her to correct any bad grammar or spelling (of which there is plenty I can tell you!), that's not the job of an editor. Her job is to read the book critically, tell me of any major plot points that don't work, or if they do work they need something added to them. She also needs to tell me when I'm making my characters act out of character, and other things like that. While any editor in the indie world (or in traditionally published books as well sometimes) can tell you that you HAVE to remove this chunk or what not, the choice to do so is yours. So, when you've got an editor working with you, they need to know what you're trying to do with the story, what the end vision looks like. You need to be able to work with them to achieve that, and while it may be that your manuscript doesn't yet make it all the way to where you want it to be, there needs to be a lot of constructive advice or criticism. It's no good saying "this part is crap" without explaining what needs to be changed to make it better.

If you've primarily written your book in English, then there is no point giving it to an editor who won't be able to identify the grammar rules and spelling issues that will no doubt crop up. You wouldn't expect just anyone to be able to correct Spanish grammar and you can't expect the same from anyone in regards to English either. Your editor needs to know the rules of the language you're using, not only so they can recognise when you're breaking any grammar rules, but so that they can tell if it's intentional or not. And while you should always go through your work before you send it to your editor of choice to make sure that they're working with a "clean" copy - one that once corrected will be the final sequence of events - there will always be mistakes that you have missed. Which is why it is NEVER a good idea to ONLY use your own editing skills, no matter how awesome they are!


I've been unfortunate enough to work with editors in the past who claimed to be able to meet my deadlines and then didn't. Worse still, as deadlines approached, they failed to inform me that they were going to be unable to meet them. I spent two years telling people that a book was coming out, to only miss every deadline and release date given. I don't have that problem now, thankfully, but the experience taught me the importance of a reliable editor. You need to know that when you say to someone "I need it by [date]" they're going to deliver, and that if they can't, they'll tell you in enough time for you to make the appropriate arrangements.

Technically Kim and I have never been in a room together, but I know that when she sends me edits, if I have an issue, I can call her and we can talk it through. I also know that if she doesn't get the message I'm trying to send through my work, she can call me for clarification.  If you can't work with someone and listen to what they have to say, then it's possibly not the best idea to give them the manuscript that you've slaved over for months. It will end in heartbreak and you'll be no further forward in getting your book published. 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

Sunday 14 September 2014

Spoonie Writer: Writing When You Can

Spoonie Writer: Writing When You Can

One thing I learnt early on when I was diagnosed was that sometimes things don't go to plan. You may think that because you've gotten a good nights sleep, you'll be able to do that big thing you planned, or even that little thing you planned. Sometimes though, when chronically ill, our bodies have other ideas. Part of being a spoonie is knowing how to understand what your body needs and what it's saying, so that if it says rest, you can do so as soon as possible and not miss out on days of work because you overdid it.

Another thing I have learned since I got medically retired and took up writing as a career was that no matter how much you may want to do something and have a relatively "normal" day, it's not going to happen that way all the time. Some days you'll be able to do more, other days you won't get anything done. The trick is to know exactly how YOU are feeling, what your body is telling you and what you need to do to make sure you don't get hit with major payback.

As someone who has to count "spoons" and decide whether or not it's the right time to write, I can tell you that there is never a "right" time, it's all about writing when you can and listening to your body when you can't. I know I have talked before about things you can do when you can't write (found here) but there are times when you're just well enough to get a page written. While you may find it easier to write when you're able to fully commit and sit for as long as it takes, as a spoonie writer you will have to learn to adjust. For some of us, sitting for long periods of time is impossible, whereas for others, it's the only thing they can do without causing more issues.

I may be uttering these words all the time in pieces like this, but it really is a fine balancing act between doing what you can when you can and pushing yourself past your limits and paying for it later. Personally, I've done both. I have done writing in bits and pieces and found I got more done than if I'd waited for a longer period to write, and I've pushed myself past breaking point and then found myself unable to manage anything constructive for the rest of the week. If you're working to a deadline that's one thing, but for me, my deadlines are arbitrary and rarely set in stone. Of course, I have a publication deadline, but the book has usually been written by then and it's just the editing that needs doing.

That's another thing though, being a writer is not just about sitting down at the keyboard and pouring out chapter after chapter. There are other responsibilities that we need to meet and for some of us, doing those in manageable chunks helps and makes them seem less daunting than attempting to do it all at once. My fabulous editor sends me corrections in chunks and I work through them at my own pace. We start the editing process a couple of weeks after the last book was published so that we have the majority of a year to work through it. You will learn these kinds of work-arounds as you become more familiar with how your conditions affect you and what works for you. Don't give up hope and try not to push beyond what you are capable of at that moment in time. After all, it's you who has to deal with the payback and you who suffers for it.

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

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Questions From Readers - Part Seven

Questions From Readers

For the majority of August, I had my email open for any questions from readers, and finally I have found the time to answer them. So here we go!

What are your current WIP's about?
As you know, I write two books at once (a piece can be found here). I have recently finished two, so I'm in the beginning stages of my new ones. One is a futuristic crime novel that analyzes the phrase "walk a mile in a man's shoes" and is told from the point of view of an eighteen year old who has just starte work in the local police force. It's a job she'll have for life... whether she likes it or not. The second is the seventh DYING THOUGHTS book which sees Tara having to deal with being home alone, college work, and life with her first boyfriend. I'm really excited about both of them.

What made you start writing young adult?

I started writing young adult books because at the time, I was a young adult. I was nineteen and retired from working for medical reasons and I felt that it would be best to write what I knew, so I started writing about teenagers. It was only as I got older and further away from my own teen and young adult years that I found that I really did enjoy it more than trying to write adult fiction, so I've stuck with it ever since.

Do you ever plan to branch out from crime & mystery?
I have written other genres, and I do usually combine genres. I find that I stick with crime and mystery because it's something I feel I do well. I love thinking up a new mystery or series of crimes for my characters to solve and I feel like I can bring a unique perspective to the stories I choose to tell. However, I have written two books completely crime-free; one was THE FRIENDSHIP TRIANGLEwhich dealt with family drama, and friendship and the other is WAITING ON YOUwhich is a young adult romance novel.

Will you ever write for adults or "new adults"?
To be honest, I don't really know if I'll ever move onto writing adult books. As I've said before, the issues I have are that I just don't like writing about adults that much, and although I started writing YA because of my age at the time, it's also something I enjoy. So, for the time being I'll just say that I probably won't branch out into writing adult books. As for new adults, a genre which seems to be starting to emerge, I won't say never because it may just be something I find myself able to do. I'm just not planning on moving past YA yet.

Do you do a lot of reading? What kind of books and how much a week?
I do a lot of reading. I read some YA, some chick-lit and some crime novels. I generally read between four and eight books a fortnight depending on how much downtime I've had. I strongly believe that to be good at writing, you need to read a lot to be able to see how other people do it. That will aid you in discovering your own niche as well as find what kind of style of writing you prefer. I wrote a piece about it here.

Out of your published works, which was your favourite to write?
 Hmm, that's a tough one. If you'd asked me before I'd finished my last two WIP's I would have said the two before that, but now that those are both finished I find myself thinking it's those two... which I know isn't right, coz you can't have two favourites, but since I'm working on another book that I am really enjoying, I'm gonna say my final answer is the standalone I'm working on right now... I think!

How much time a day do you spend writing?
It really does depend on what's going on that day, how I'm feeling, whether or not I'm in the zone (talked about here) and whether or not I have other things on. I like to write something every day, whether it's a blog post or something to do with the books I'm working on, I want to get something written. I guess that on a good day I would spend a few hours and on a bad day, only about thirty minutes.

What's your favourite genre to read?
As mentioned above, I love reading and get through a number of books a week. I usually read either crime and mystery, or a chick-lit romance book, but I have been known to dabble in other genres with my reading. I would say that I am split on my favourite, some days all I want to read is crime, and other days I'm desperate for some romance or chick-lit!

Do you read any young adult books?
I do! I've read Harry Potter, and books by John Green, Meg Cabot, Angella Graff, Suzanne Collins, John & Carole Barrowman among others. I love reading books just as much as I love writing them myself. I have a number of YA books on my to-be-read list and am slowly working my way through them.

Do you feel like your chronic illnesses/disability have influenced what you write?
Yes, they have, but maybe not in the way you mean; my illnesses have influenced some of the characters I have chosen to write. By the time I was 20 I was in a wheelchair, and very much aware that there weren't many characters in books that kicked arse in addition to being a wheelchair user. It's why I wrote the character Hope in the book LYNNE & HOPE,  and also the reason why Lisa in BLACKOUT shares the same lung condition with me. I've said this before, but representation matters, it matters a whole lot! (Pieces on this can be found here and here.) Due to the fact that I am disabled, I am very aware of the need for all media to be inclusive of disabled characters, and I try to do that with my writing.

Do you feel that your chronic illness/disability have an effect on how and when you write?
I have a number of chronic illnesses that have led to me becoming disabled and they do have a big effect on when I write and how often that happens. If I'm having a bad day, then it's likely that I may choose to just plot in my head, or I may choose the write on my tablet. Other times it's a good enough day for me to be able to sit at my desk and do my writing, but there are, of course, some days when I can't do anything other than sleep.

Why do you only release one book a year when you have more than that finished?
In the beginning of my indie career, I released two books at once and planned, at the time, to continue doing so. It was really only when I found that I couldn't get them edited and corrected and proof read, and the covers designed etc., in time that I started to release just one a year. It gives me the opportunity to spend a lot of time making sure the story is the one I want to be seen and released. As you'll have seen from my after process pieces, it takes a lot of work to get a book from finished to the bookshelves, and that work takes time.

Do you use a professional editor?
I do! Her name is Kim, she's a close friend of mine and we are on the same wave length where my books are concerned. She pours hours into making sure that there are enough commas, full stops and all the rest before she sends it back to me and many hours are then spent making it into what you end up seeing on the shelf.

Now you've finished uni, do you plan to spend more time writing?
I hope to have more time to do a lot of things, including writing. At the moment though, I am doing a course that will aid my writing, so I'm still juggling school work and writing. But hopefully once that is done, I'll be able to focus completely on my writing.

And will that increase the number of books you release a year?
Not actually sure about this, it will also depend on things such as cover design and editing which takes a lot of time because it's not just me who's doing it. It's certainly a possibility.

What did you study at uni and how long did it take you to finish your degree?
I studied a number of different courses from Science to History to Social Sciences. My degree is an honours degree, so took five years part time, and I now have (or will when I graduate in a couple weeks) a BA (Hons) in Health & Social Care.

Do you recommend indie publishing or going through a traditional publisher?
I know which one I prefer, but I also know other authors who choose a different route or the same route for different reasons, so it's not something I would feel comfortable choosing. It's all dependant on your own circumstances and while indie has worked for me, it might not for you. Personal choice all the way.

Why was there such a big gap between your first book, "Blackout", in 2005 to your second in 2011?
I was published in 2005, and planned to do other books written at the time through the same route, but found that my health did not work well with the contract and deadlines and so I left that publishing house and moved onto just writing for me, until 2011 when I was able to use Amazon KDP to publish other books through e-books. I've stuck with that since and now we're here.

How much of your "work day" is spent writing?
I'm gonna take a guess that you mean an average day, so probably about 25% of it, considering about 50% is spent sleeping! This does of course vary day to day.

And how much is spent promoting and doing other "admin" parts of being an indie author?
I would say the other 25% of the average day is spent working on blog posts, promotion, and all of that. Again, this can vary from one day to the next.

Thanks for all the questions folks! Please feel free to ask me a question on Goodreads if you want to know anything that isn't covered here!

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

Monday 1 September 2014

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Making Connections

The Trials Of An Indie Author: Making Connections

With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and blogging platforms; in fact ALL social media, there has come a greater chance for other indie writers to become your friends and become part of groups that exist solely for us indies to promote and work together to get ourselves recognised. Just as those in the traditionally published world will make connections with other authors (indie or not), an indie author needs to have a number of people that she can count on to help her with promotion because you can't do it all yourself.

There seem to be a number of types of indie authors though, including the ones who make the connections but only seem to want to get what they can for their own personal gain, ignoring the idea that they should be helping others too. And there are others who will do whatever they can to help you sell a book or two or more, and will endlessly support you and help you in any way they can. Both of these types are extreme ends of a spectrum and there are many different ones in between. The point of this piece is not to call out those who don't help others, nor to praise those that do, but to say that as an indie author you need to make many connections. Connections can equal sales, recognition and they can help you sell your image, a topic I have touched on before (found here). So here are my tips to making good connections in the indie author world.


On Facebook and Goodreads, as well as other social media sites, there are a number of groups that have the aim of promoting and connecting with other authors. I am a member of a few whose purpose is just that. It's usually easy to join these groups and use their resources, but be aware that by asking someone to promote you, you will probably be asked to reciprocate and if you're not willing to do that, then some of these groups will not be the right fit for you.

There are numerous events going on in the indie world, from Facebook page takeovers to the Bunny Hop event that I took part in after Easter. There are also the "like for like" events that will help you to connect with other writers, editors, cover designers and many more people who make up the indie world. Sometimes you'll find that you are liking people who you will never talk to again, and that's okay, but other times you'll find that you're meeting people who really click with you and will help you move into private groups or other events that will help to promote your work. Along with takeover events, there are also the planned giveaways. These can help with getting your work out there and swapping books for reviews. I have taken part in these and can say that while I still don't have hundreds of reviews, they have helped me to make some good connections with other groups and people in the indie world who like my work.

Sometimes when you pick up a book by another indie author, you won't think to review it because people usually only review when a book has blown them away or is really bad. However, reviews are an important part of being an indie author and as long as you don't attack the author and provide honest and constructive criticism (where needed), then there's no reason why you can't share your thoughts on their work. This also allows you to make friends, and connections. It was through a mutually agreed review swap that I met one of my favourite indie authors, as well as many others. This in turn has led to being asked to take part in events, being invited to groups, and more reviews on my own work.

And finally, #4 - GIVE WHAT YOU TAKE
The whole thing about being an indie author is that you're usually doing it alone without the backing of a team of supporters, at least when you first start out. So when someone offers to give you an honest review, or host you on their page or blog, try to do the same for them. Or pay it forward and do it for another indie author. If you're always taking from the indie community, then eventually the handouts and favours will stop. You have to reciprocate for it to work and to make good connections.

So, those are my tips for making connections in the indie world. Not every author you'll meet on Facebook or Goodreads is indie, some are traditionally published or with a small press and that's just as good a connection too. The idea is that we, as a community, should be supporting each other and not tearing down someone because their sales figures differed from yours. It's all about a give and take and also trying to remember that as far as traditionally published and indie go, it's not an us and them world. 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.