Sunday 27 December 2015

Looking back on 2015!

This time last year, I set myself some goals for 2015 and before I do the same for the coming year, I thought I would go over what I planned to achieve. Here's the goals from last year:

->Time sensitive ones<-
1. Release Blackout, Lynne & Hope & Waiting On You in paperback in Jan/Feb of 2015. - Done, but later than planned. They were released in November 2015.
2. Release Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week as both an ebook and a paperback in the summer of 2015 - Half done, the book was released in August as an ebook, but a problem with the cover meant that the paperback has been put on hold until the new year.
3. Have new covers completed for Dying Thoughts - First Touch, Dying Thoughts - Second Sight & The Friendship Triangle by the summer of 2015. - A third done, the new cover for Dying Thoughts - Second Sight was  released by the summer of 2015.
4. Release the Dying Thoughts series in paperback by the summer of 2015. - Half done - two of the books are now in paperback, but again it was November 2015.
5. Release The Friendship Triangle in paperback by the autumn of 2015. - Not done, the book is ready for release in paperback once it has an updated cover.
6. Do an online release party for Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week - Done, the cover reveal was done at the end of July and the book released in August and both have excellent release parties.
7. Do a book blog tour for Waiting On You sometime after the paperback release, but before the autumn of 2015. - Not done. It's something I plan to do in 2016, and has been on my to-do list for a while.
8. Start editing Destination: Unknown by October 2015. - Not started yet, but a change of editors means that I will be able to start the editing process in the new year.
9. Finish both Walk A Mile & Dying Thoughts - Seventh Death by Christmas 2015. - Not done, but I am closer to the end of both.
10. End the year with covers finished or at least started for Dying Thoughts - Fifth Secret & It's Not Always Rainbows. - Nowhere near done.

->General Ones<-
1. Have one hundred reviews on Goodreads for all books combined. - Half done, I have 48 reviews (as of today) on Goodreads for all of my books combined and over 80 ratings. So closer to my goal.
2. Contact and get at least ten book bloggers to review a book - Done, and I recieved my first review by a book blogger. It can be found here. I also contacted a lot of them, but am still waiting on reviews.
3. Set up and do at least two events for the "Livin' the Indie Life" tag on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. - Not done. I started to do that, but with my health taking a turn for the worst, I was unable to follow through.
4. Make sure every book released has at least TEN reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. - Half done, the majority of my books have more than 3 reviews, with some going over it.
5. Take part in at least five events over the course of the year. - Half done, I did one event in June and along with my cover reveal and release, that brings me to three out of the five.
6. Design and get more SWAG for The Friendship Triangle & updated SWAG for Waiting On You - Done, I was able to get more SWAG designed and some printed, and have plans for them to help promote.
7. Do at least three more sessions of "Questions for Joey" on the blog. - Not done. I have no reason for this other than being sick.
8. Start to plan books fifteen and sixteen. - Not done, but I have ideas.
9. Write often and keep up with the writing logs. - Done! I have another years worth of writing logs and it's great to look back.
10. Try to make new contacts in the YA indie field and keep up with the ones I already have. - Done, it's a great thing to have contacts and to make new ones.

Looking back on the year I can see that I faced challenges with my health, but still managed to keep up with some of them. While plans have gone array because of needing surgery and the recovery periods I did manage to do a lot this year that I hadn't thought about in 2014.

1. I took part in NaNoWriMo, and managed to write a page a day totally over 23K in words.
2. I brought it forward into December and started JoWriMoGo, planning at least a page a day through the whole month.
3. I managed to get my books released in paperback, which I am extremely proud of. It was a huge overtaking and while it hasn't ended with all eight books available in that format, I have managed five and the final three should be out in the early starts on 2016.
4. I changed editor and proofreader teams, and managed to find myself an excellent editor who works well with me, as well as an awesome proofreader who is also good at what she does.
5. I have managed to design new SWAG and in doing so, have opened up new promotional avenues which I hope to take advantage of in the new year.
6. I have, despite three surgeries, kept up with writing. 
7. I have ideas for the final book in the Dying Thoughts series.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming goals for 2016. I hope that some of these will bring me closer to having all eight books available in paperback, as well as my ninth book being published in the summer months. I hope that the new year brings us all what we wish for!

Saturday 19 December 2015

Juggling Responsibilities & Staying On Track - The Creative Process

Juggling Responsibilities & Staying On Track

In my last blog post, found here, I talked about the dead zone and keeping motivated whilst not losing your spark during writing. Today I'm going to talk about something similar, which can be seen as a companion piece to that. 

One thing I learnt early on in my writing career, was that if I was going to get my work done and also have a life, I needed to stay on target. I also needed to be sure to maintain a good balance between working, and not working. I've spoken about that in numerous pieces, which can be found here, here, & here. My routine is pretty much dictated by how well I'm doing on any given day, along with a healthy balance of fun activities and not so fun responsibilities. For example, these could be the days which I put aside to do geocaching, or the days in the past that were all for my uni work, as well as the school run, which I do pretty much every week twice a day. These are all things that are important enough for me that I make time for them, although the school run is kinda mandatory! When you add in the disruption that come from living with several chronic conditions, you realise that sometimes it can be hard to stick to any proper schedule. While I'd love to say that I go geocaching twice a week, every week, sometimes it doesn't happen at all. The same goes for my writing, which while being my job, is also something I consider to be fun.

So, how do I juggle my time, along with my other responsibilities, to make sure that I stay on track with my writing? As you are all aware, I like to try and release one book a year, while also writing two at once. I know it's been a source of a lot of questions in the past as to why I don't just release all the written books as they are finished. I have my own reasons for that, but it mostly boils down to the fact that I can't guarantee when I will finish a work and therefore prefer to have books on standby, ready to go without the added pressure of a rigid deadline. It's one of the reasons I find so much of my writing time to be enjoyable, because I don't have the pressure of having to write a certain amount by an exact date, otherwise I'll have angry readers. It's not always something that works for everyone, but it does for me. I digress, anyway, I like to stay on target by planning a lot, and organising my work week around any other duties that may come up.

As a spoonie, I usually have at least one hospital appointment on the horizon, and on top of that I also have parenting duties that need to be met. I find the best way for me to organise my time is to do what started out as a weekly to-do list, became a fortnightly to-do list, and is now (for the time being at least), a monthly one. I set myself four chapters - two of each book - alone with a list of bonus items should I find myself having some spare time, and usually in that list there are four more chapters. Right now, I seem to be just about managing the basic four chapters, but my hope is that as time progresses and I recover from the recent bouts of ill health and surgery, I will be hitting the bonus list more and more. We'll see how things go.

Every time I manage something - because EVERYTHING goes on that list - I cross it off. It's a nice way for me to apply a little gentle pressure to myself, since I'm indie and don't have a deadline for the two novels I'm working on now, without it turning into too much pressure and causing me to work myself into a case of writer's block or worse, a health flare. I've been doing it this way for a good couple of years and in the years past when I was still a student, there wasn't much time for writing. However, having graduated last year with my BA Honours, I feel like I can devote more time to writing and other admin duties. That also leaves more time for fun things, which is always a good way to prevent becoming too burnt out by life.

Now, with health as fragile as mine, there are some weeks when no writing gets done. How do I keep myself on track when it feels like I'm blocked beyond belief or worse, in the dead zone that I spoke about last time? It's not as simple as just opening a word document and trying to force yourself to type. Sometimes it can be remedied by writing a blog post, or catching up with a friend on Skype or through email. Or even doing, as I said last time, something different with my characters to see if I can persuade them to actually do what I'm asking of them. The idea for me at least, is to keep the end goal in sight while not focusing on it too much. The best laid plans and all, and being somewhat flexible in the outcome means that I have something to work with when going down one path doesn't seem to provide much in the way of words.

So, my way of juggling responsibilities and staying on track with my writing is pretty simple. I write to-do lists, I allow myself some time to relax - even a whole week if needed - and I'm flexible with my planning. That's something I've learnt as a spoonie for the past fourteen years of my life, but it can be true for anyone. If you focus too much on one goal as the only acceptable outcome, you can burn yourself out, you can miss other paths that take you somewhere just as good, if not better, and you can find yourself getting very frustrated with your work. While I don't enjoy every aspect of being an indie author, I do like the writing part and I think for as long as that is true, it's going to be what I do with my life and my time. I hope the same can be said for you and your own work.

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 12 December 2015

Keeping Motivated & Avoiding Losing Your Spark - The Creative Process

Keeping Motivated & Avoiding Losing Your Spark

When you make up stories for a living, it's hard sometimes to find the inspiration to keep going. There's always something else that needs doing and sometimes it's hard to set yourself some time just for writing. I have a lovely sign on my office door which tells people to keep away when I'm writing, but unfortunately life doesn't always obey. One of the many things I've talked about before is making sure you balance your real life responsibilities alongside those in your writing world. Today, I'm just gonna talk about how to stay motivated when writer's block hits and how to avoid losing your spark when you hit the dead zone.

I know I've written a piece about the mysterious "zone" that many writers and other artists have talked about. It can be found here. The good thing about the zone itself is while it's hard to enter at times, it's always there in the distance as something to aim for. The problem is, how do you stay motivated when all you keep hitting is not the zone itself, but the bit that comes before it - the dead zone.

What is the dead zone, you ask? It's the place where writer's block comes from and ideas go to die. It's that place where so many writers find themselves stuck, with no idea how to get out of it and into the actual zone itself. I've hit it a fair few times myself, both in my youth and in my writing career. It's not fun, because unlike plain old regular writer's block, it comes with a little voice that drains you of all enthusiasm for your work. It's not unlike having a gremlin (pieces on mine can be found here & here.) The problem is finding a way to stay motivated about your project to the point where it will lift you out of the dead zone and help you move forward in your work.

There are numerous ways to do this. Like many excellent writers have said, you should try to write something every day (piece can be found here). You should also be sure to keep your project new and exciting. While I do plan things to a point, I like allowing my characters a little freedom when it comes to how they would react in certain situations. People always say that original characters don't always do as they're told and a good way to try and get past that dead zone is to just allow them to wander from the plot a little. It doesn't have to make it into the final draft; hell, sometimes I do an interview with each one to see if I can find something in their responses that will show me some avenue I've not yet explored. Whatever works, right? ;-)

One thing that is always good for me is to talk to my best friend, and my editor, who both know the stories I write and the characters almost as well as I do. They can help me see a point I'd overlooked and they can help me get back on track, motivated and zooming into the zone without a second thought. Another way is to take a step back, read a book of your chosen genre, spend some time relaxing for as long as time constraints allow and try not to put too much pressure on yourself to write a chapter or two right then. Sometimes we all get a little burnt-out, and the last thing you want to do is make the pressure so high that you just don't want to continue with the work.

Overall, whatever path you choose to climb out of the dead zone, try to stay focused on the end game. You will get over this hump and you will get to a point where you are entering the zone so much that you forget that there was any other way of writing. Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself some breathing room. Writing a novel takes time and you can't rush it, no matter how much you wish you could, something I have learnt a lot recently. Novels come along at their own pace, and after all the work that goes into them, you can understand why. So keep writing, don't give up and you'll get there in the end!

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

Wednesday 2 December 2015

#NaNoWriMo Final Count & More

Hey Guys!

Yes, it's true! I managed a total of fifty-four pages and over 23k words during the month of November! Considering I planned to write at least a page a day, I think it's really great I almost doubled it. In total, I managed to write twelve chapters - six of each book - and I feel well and truly out of the slump and on my way to getting these books finished!

It was in the middle of #NaNoWriMo that I realised I could aim for the same in the coming months. It was really hard to find something to start each page with, but once I got into it, I found the words flowed a lot easier. So, I plan to do #JoWriMoGo - Joey's Writing Monthly Goal - through to the new year and see if I can beat my current score with sixty pages. Keep checking on Facebook and other places to stay up to date with how I'm doing!

I hope that 2016 will bring with it the remaining three books in paperback, and I plan to do a give away or two that will give you all the chance to grab a signed paperback copy of one of my books. Make sure you follow me on Facebook or here on the blog so you don't miss out!

Monday 23 November 2015

Letter To Thrive - Joey Writes To Her Younger Self

There is a wonderful Tumblr blog called letterstothrive which has disabled woman write to their younger selves. I decided to send a letter to my fifteen year old self (posted here), as a way to show her, and me, how far I have come and how becoming disabled at nineteen and having what I thought would be my future changed, did not destroy me, or my plans. I may not have known it at the time, but even back then I was doing what would become my career. I decided to share it here in case other indie authors fancy doing something similar, especially if they are also disabled.


Dear fifteen year old Joey,

I'm you, from nearly two decades into the future and I'm writing to tell you things that may not have seemed that important to you, but ended up changing the course of our lives. You're probably reading this while working on chapters for that story. Maybe you're with B and writing the story about the twins. I know one thing is for certain, you are very sure about where your life is going and what comes next in your path. I'm writing to tell you that you're wrong.

Right now, you'll have nearly finished your first GCSE year. Your lungs are getting worse, but you figure it's just the stress and upset of being a teenager. You know that you need to do well on the science exams because you plan to become a doctor - a paediatrician to be exact. You're probably wondering how that went. Well, it's a long story, but I have the time, so here we go.

You do well in your GCSE's, you get the grades you need to go to college and you do just that. You sign up for the A-level classes you need to go to medical school, but then things start to go a little wrong. Your health isn't the best and due to a number of other circumstances you end up dropping out of college. For a long time you feel like you've let your parents down, let yourself down but you hide it by throwing yourself into the working world. Your dream seems to be over before it's even started and for a long time, you struggle to find out exactly what it is you want to do with your life.

Even though you find yourself a good job, you don't stay there long. A year later and with the additional diagnoses of M.E and Fibromyalgia, you find yourself under the heading of "medically retired." I know that for a long time after that you're not really sure what to do with your life. I mean, you have to move out of the room you rented, back in with mum, and then move again. You fight to get the benefits you need to be able to live and for a fair few years you are not stable medically. By the time you hit twenty - five years from now - you'll be using a wheelchair.

It's not all bad, B turns out to be the best friend you always knew she was and together life goes on, but still you ask yourself what can you do with your life? How can you become a "productive member of society"? You are not well enough to go back into the working world, but you have dreams of doing *something*. You're just not sure what. That's when it comes to you, to work on one of the stories you wrote all those years ago. You've gone back to it before, re-writing and hoping that you can make it as good as it can be. You also find you have more ideas, some that have been brewing for almost as long. Remember the coma girl story you told B about on the way to school when we were thirteen? Well, that becomes your focus now. You write it in ten days and suddenly, that feeling of pride that you'd missed came back.

As more stories appeared, you settled into your own routine of writing. You even sent off manuscripts to publishing houses. You are desperate to get published, and you do, at age twenty-three, your first book is released. It's a massive achievement for you, as you've gotten more books written, your health has declined. Now B is taking care of you, and you are an inseparable pair. I'm sorry to say that only one other friend stays in contact with you from your school days, but you find that you have a lot of friends online and although some go, others stay.

I'm writing to you now as thirty-three year old Joey. I, well we, have seven books published, twelve completed and two more on the go. There will be a launch for our eighth book this autumn. You are also very much disabled. The chair started as an only long distance thing, and then you became sicker and it became a constant need for you. I know that you, at the age you are now, may struggle with knowing what this future holds for you, but I can tell you this. You are happy. You love your job, love writing, adore the community of indie authors you're a member of and you are good at what you do. You may not yet be on the best sellers list - maybe the letter from the future for me will arrive any day now saying that is to come - but people do like and cherish the work you do. Your disability is just another part of the identity you have made for yourself, just part of you like the colour of your eyes is part of you. It's not to be feared, but to be embraced.

You may wonder why I'm writing this letter, if the future changes so much from what we thought it would be all that time ago. I'm writing to tell you that even the small decisions you made at fifteen, still influenced who you became. You graduated last year from the Open University with an honours degree in Health & Social Care. It's not medical school, but it's still something you love. I know that at fifteen, life seemed to be just one path, but I'm telling you that it's not. It's a myriad of paths and they all end up in different places. The diagnoses and getting sick led me down this path and I don't look back and see missed opportunities, but highlights of my life that I wouldn't change. While I may never have seen that one day I would be the person I am, I'm telling you that you will be, and you'll be proud of that too.

So, keep writing those stories, some will be buried in my attic for years and never spoken of again, but others become books and they help shape your career even if you don't think so at the time. Don't be scared of getting sicker, it happens and you come through it strong. Be nicer to Mum too, she becomes our biggest supporter in the darker times coming, I know you want to take control of things, but try to remember that she does it not to baby you, but because she cares.

I'll see you soon.

Love and *squishes*

Joey (age 33)

Thursday 12 November 2015

Approaching Blogs For Reviews - The After Process

Approaching Blogs For Reviews

As I've talked about before (pieces from here & here), one of the many issues of being published as an indie author is that you do the majority of the work. You should be farming out your editing, proof-reading and other aspects like that, but the rest of it pretty much falls on your shoulders. It's not an easy task, and it's one of the reasons many people chose not to go the indie route, or if they do, they pay for other people to be in charge of the promotional
 side of things. For some of us, that just isn't an option and so, here my advice about how to approach people for reviews for your work.

Every writer needs reviews. It's a way for people to judge whether or not your work is something they want to read; after all, they are spending money and the general aim of reading is to escape to an imaginary world and people like to know in advance if your world is the one for them. I know that a lot of people in my author circle are constantly on the look-out for reviewers and I am no different. I have contacted so many different people and had wildly different rates of success when asking for a review. It's all about making contacts (a subject I discuss here) and using other resources to make sure that you can get as many reviews and as much feedback as you need to get your name out there and sell some books.

There are numerous websites that you can go to and look for book bloggers who will possibly review your work. I use one mostly for indie authors, which is quite good and has a very full database. It called Indie Book Reviewer and can be found here. They've got a whole bunch of blogs and you're able to browse by genre. I've combed through those and then gone on to fill out a spreadsheet of my own so that I can keep track of which sites I've contacted and their responses. Googling the same will probably bring up some other book blogs. So, now you have the information you need, what do you do when you are ready to contact the blogs themselves?

Simple really, make sure you ALWAYS read the review policy. Some blogs have a full list, or they only accept either paperbacks or e-books. Others will only read certain genres. Others have a specific way for you to contact them, a form to fill out or an email to send and all of them want some kind of information. Some will want you to submit your e-book or a sample along with your enquiry email and not doing so makes you look bad. So, step one, before you even think of opening an email is to read their policy. Make sure you meet their requirements and have all that you need to send them a request.

The second thing is to be polite. I know, right? Like who would be rude to someone when you're the one asking for a favour? I dunno, but it happens, so you need to be sure to ask nicely and say please and thank you and all that other stuff you learnt in primary school. The other thing is to be aware that they probably receive a huge number of requests. There simply isn't enough time for someone to read every book that they get a request for, and there's also the fact that some people just won't like or be interested in your work. That's not saying that it's bad, just that they read the blurb or info and decided it wasn't for them. It happens, move on.

It would also be good to prepare yourself for the fact that due to the volume of their requests, they might not get back to you quickly...or at all. If they've read the email and decided that it's not for them and they have another fifty requests, there also isn't time to shoot you an email saying so. Accept that and move on from them to the next site. Another big thing is to not bombard them with emails until they reply. Make the first contact, and wait. If they get back to you, then yes, you should respond in a timely manner, but if they don't? Keep waiting and/or assume they weren't interested. It's pretty much the way it goes. Always be polite and always keep it professional.

The last thing is just simply that sometimes there will be people who give you low scoring review. Basically a "bad" review. My thoughts on the matter are there are no such things as bad reviews. Yeah, you can get a one star, but as long as it's not directly attacking you, then it's just a fact of life. You can't please everyone and you won't please everyone. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another and a one star review may well be the thing that makes another potential reader say "yes,  this is the book for me!"  Book bloggers are promoting you for free, in their own time, and you can't demand that they provide you with a five star review just because it's your work. Learn from it, take whatever feedback they have and move on with your writing. Reviews are there to help you, to make you a better writer as well as to guide other people in which books they buy. So, always be polite, and always be professional. If you remember these two rules, then you're on the right track. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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

Monday 2 November 2015

#NaNoWriMo Kinda and other news!

For as long as I've been a writer, I've always been drawn to the month of November and the great NaNoWriMo event that goes on through it. I've never taken part, mostly because I can't write that way. I applaud those who do though, and for a while I've thought about doing something to get myself back into writing consistently. So this year, I decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo: One page of writing each day for the whole of November.

For those unaware, NaNo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The main idea is to write 50K words in a month and therefore finish a novel. Started in 1999 by a small group of people in San Francisco, it has become a massive world-wide yearly event for all kinds of writers. (More History caan be found here.) Even back before I was published, it was still this big thing that a lot of my friends did online and I always wondered if I ever would. Although I have written a novel in ten days (admittedly, it falls below the 50K word count), I have never been able to repeat that endeavour and even then, it was far from finished. Once it went through the battle to get published, editing and all, it was a good four years before I held the book in my hands. I can understand the attraction of dedicating a whole month to nothing more than getting that long thought-out novel onto the page.

My own writing has become somewhat of a career since I became indie in 2011 and went on to add seven more books to the published list. Once I realised that I wasn't going to be able to work a conventional job, it became easier to dedicate time to writing. For a while it was on the back burner because of my degree course, but having held a BA (Hons) for over a year now, I do wonder why I don't spend more time at my desk pounding out the pictures in my head for the books I'm working on. The argument can be made that given I've had three surgeries this year and am looking at a possible fourth, it's understandable that I've not written more. Yet, I still want to push myself. Even on my worst health days, I still use my tablet, and with my nifty desk and bluetooth keyboard I can easily write a page. So, that's my plan for this month.

My hope is that given we're on November 2nd and I've already written five pages and completed a chapter, I won't be coming back to this blog post in a week and telling you all I managed my set chapters and nothing more. My hope is that by pushing myself just a little to write that one page will mean that some days it's all I write and others, I keep going. It's about getting into the flow of writing and the story, something I've not been doing much of lately. We'll see how it goes! Keep track on my Tsu, Facebook and Twitter pages.

I do have some good news for you, Blackout, Lynne & Hope, Waiting On You, and Dying Thoughts book two and three are all now available in paperback! I'm hoping to have the fourth Dying Thoughts book out soon but there were some issues with the cover and my artist is working hard on fixing those now. I hope it will be by the end of the month, but we'll have to wait and see. As for the remaining two books, those are awaiting cover revamps before being released in paperback. Maybe even by the beginning of 2016!

So, here's to a month of writing!

Monday 7 September 2015

#ICYMI Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week Release & Paperbacks!

#ICYMI Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week is now available on Amazon Kindle (US, UK)! 

Now for an update! I am awaiting the proof copies of six of my books for paperback, and as they're coming from the US, I've been told to expect delivery around the middle of September. Once they get here, I'll be able to look at them and make sure they're just as they should be. Once that's done, I'll be able to release them on Amazon and other stores. It's all rather exciting!

I was also interviewed by two lovely indie authors - Wendy Jones (interview can be found here) and Jan Raymond (interview can her found here) - who both asked interesting questions and were kind enough to host me.

I am working steadily on my current two manuscripts and am also working with my cover designer to get new covers for Dying Thoughts - First Touch and The Friendship Triangle. Once those are done and live, I'll be able to publish those two in paperback as well.

So, busy, busy, but all is well. A new school year has started and with it a new month and I'm already on the third of my normal four monthly chapters, so hopefully this month will have some added bonus ones!

As always, follow the blog or my facebook page to be kept up to date with all the news!

Friday 14 August 2015

Info-Dumping & Why You Shouldn't Do It - The Creative Process

Info-Dumping & Why You Shouldn't Do It

As I've mentioned before in numerous posts, research is one of the many things a writer has to do when they're creating new worlds. Posts on this topic can be found here & here. It can be one of the more fun parts of writing, because even when
 a story is set in your own original world, you still need to carry out some world building and for that,  you get to use hard facts as well as your imagination. But the issue I'm talking about today is what is affectionately called "Info-Dumping", and it's something you really want to avoid at all costs.

Now, I can understand the attraction, and I've been guilty of doing it myself on occasion. When you've spent a good few hours, days or even weeks researching how a certain thing should be done (in my case, usually a murder or something equally grisly) then you want to be able to show off that you actually did do the research and include all that you can in the dialogue and exposition. However, nothing else will pull your readers out of the cosy world you've built faster than a fourteen page lecture on how forensics work, or how fast a certain car can actually go. It may be fun to include it for your own reference, but if there's no real need for a character to talk about it, or for the reader to know, then it shouldn't be there.

I am grateful to have my excellent editing team, who make sure that I don't go on for pages and pages about how DNA evidence is collected, tested and used to catch a suspect, but it wasn't always like that. Back in the early days of my writing career, I was very happy to include as much information as I could find on a certain subject and it wasn't until someone else read it and told me that it took away from the writing, that I began to see that it wasn't needed. I would spend hours reading about a certain forensic technique and would make copious notes, but would then find that actually I didn't need to write about x or y and while it was disappointing, you have to be firm with yourself and make sure that you're telling the story and not just giving people irrelevant facts that they could find on their own if they wanted.

I don't mean facts that are relevant, such as how your characters managed to track down a killer, or how they escaped from a bound chair when kidnapped: those things do need to be in your work. That becomes a case of showing and not just telling, which I'll discuss in another piece. A good way to think about the difference between the two is to think about what YOU would like to read if the story were written by someone else. Would you really want to know every detail of a contract that was signed and never mentioned again? Or would you prefer it be kept to a simple sentence or two? If you're using so much researched information that it becomes likely that you'll need to include a list of sources, then maybe it's about time to actually start thinking less is more.

I get why writers (myself included) want to include all that information. Like I said, it's an exciting prospect to have the facts to back up your fiction and to justify certain choices, but if it starts to look more like a piece of formal writing that you'd hand in to be marked by a teacher, then it's probably too much information. There is a certain level of pride that I know I have when I write something and know that it is as accurate as I could've made it, but sometimes as a writer you have to be happy to just know that you did your research and leave it at that. While something pivotal to the plot should be included, there really isn't any need to include what kind of toothpaste your character uses and their favourite flavour of ice cream. Just because you've thought of these things, it doesn't mean that your reader needs to know, or will even care. I mean, taking that example, unless the ice cream is going to be a clue that leads them to being rescued or if the toothpaste is actually poisoned, there's no need to tell your reader all the things you know about your main character.

So yes, sometimes less is more, and info-dumping is something that should be avoided at all costs. You're writing a work of fiction and that means that some things are sometimes better left to the imagination. If you could see yourself having the conversation with the character in a relaxed setting, then maybe it needs to be there, if not, do yourself a favour and scale back on the researched information. It certainly makes life a lot easier in the editing process at least! 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.

Thursday 23 July 2015

#ICYMI Presenting the new cover for DYING THOUGHTS - SECOND SIGHT.

Hey Readers,

I know, it's been a long time since I did an update. I have got a few other posts already written, but thought I'd do a more personal and general one about news that may have been missed in my writing posts.


Now you may have noticed that over the past year or so, there have been new covers for a few of the the books released before Dying Thoughts - Third Wish. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, me and my cover artist, B, were no longer happy with the existing covers. Lynne & Hope was the first of the older books to get a revamp, and as you can see up above, Dying Thoughts - Second Sight has just received its new cover too! The other reasoning behind this leads onto my next point...


Now, as you'll all be aware, I always planned to have every book available in both e-format and paperback. It's finally happening this year! I hired a proof-reader to read the first six books and check them for any errors, and once corrected, I have been working upon the paperback covers, uploading the files, checking formatting etc. to make sure that by the time book eight - Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week - is released, I should also be able to release a paperback version of at least three other books. By the end of 2015, ALL eight books should be available in paperback. Once that's all done, I'll plan to release in paperback and e-format at the same time.


This year, I am planning a cover reveal event for Dying Thoughts - Fourth Week. It's set for the14th August at 12:00 (BST) and will run through live until around 16:00. I am hoping to be able to find three (or more) young adult authors to take over the event for a short thirty minute period, where they can do one of the games I've planned and have ten minutes to talk about anything they wish. If you're interested in doing that, you can email me at 


It's taken a long time to get the book ready, but I'm pretty sure I now have an actual release day. 18th September will be the day that the fourth Dying Thoughts book is released on Amazon Kindle (and hopefully paperback shortly after). I am planning a big event for that, and will try to keep you all updated as and when I have actual ideas about what it will entail. I am very busily working on making sure the editing is done by the middle of August, so that I can send it off to the proof-reader afterwards and then set it up so that it is ready to be pre-ordered by the end of August!

I'm hopeful that these events will all go along as planned with as few hiccups as possible. I promise to keep you updated, should there be any more developments, so be sure to like my Facebook page or my Tsu, and follow along here to be kept up to date and make sure you don't miss something important!

Monday 6 July 2015


Welcome Guest Blogger, Roy Huff!

Roy approached me asking for a review of one of his books, and since I loved the book, I thought I'd host him here and share the review with you all! Below is a little piece about why he chose the fantasy genre. 

The reason I write YA fiction is because I love it. I love science fiction and fantasy as well and have been heavily influenced by all three genres. I also watch just about every tv show and movie that comes out. This allows me a great escape. I often live in a dream world and play out a multitude of scenarios in my head. That becomes part of the inspiration for when I write. I have also recently taken to writing down my dreams on a daily basis something I used to do when I was a teenager. The broad background in the subject and the frequent daydreaming allows me to sit uninterrupted for hours when I have the time and inclination to write. Due to my hectic schedule, I tend to be a marathon writer and write during my days off, so having played out many plot lines beforehand helps my imagination when I start putting pen to paper.

If you want to know more about Roy, you can follow his blog, find him on Goodreads and other social media sites, or join his mailing list here.

The book I read was the fourth in the Everville series. You can find it here. Below is a synopsis and following that, my review.

Two very different worlds, Easton Falls University and the magical realm of Everville are in dire need of a hero. Owen Sage embarks on an epic journey of monumental proportions to save these worlds all while fighting to keep the world within himself intact. This quest is not for the faint of heart nor is it for the weak of mind—only the bravest will succeed. Discovering the well-kept secret of The Fourth Pillar of Truth is only part of the feat. Owen will have to outwit the ever-powerful villain Governor Jahal and overcome countless other challenges along the way. Amongst all of the dragons, giants and grand chaos, will Owen's acquired skills and wisdom be enough to save both worlds or will peril be the ultimate fate of all?

My review: 5/5 stars - an intriguing tale!

I was approached by the author for an honest review in exchange for a copy of his book. I'm not usually one to read fantasy, but the synopsis of this book made me want to give it a go, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I did find it hard to follow some of the storyline in places because I haven't read the previous three books, but on its own it did tell a good story and I worked out most of what was happening. It tells the story of Everville and follows on from the changes to the time-line made in what I assume to be the previous book. Owen is on the search for the Fourth Pillar of Truth, and treks through Everville to find it.
It is well written, fast paced and certainly held my interest - it had me reading from page one until the end, and I was only able to put it down when I became desperate for sleep. It's a great book and one I would recommend to YA fantasy readers, as the world building is superb and spot on. I enjoyed it immensely and may even end up checking out the previous three and the ones that come after this book. Overall, a good read and well earnt five stars!

If you're interested in doing a guest blog post, contact us by email -

Sunday 17 May 2015

Making Your Ideas Work: When You Start Off Too Small - The Creative Process

Making Your Ideas Work: When You Start Off Too Small

I wrote a piece recently about what to do when your idea is too big (found here) and I promised that I'd look at the other end of the spectrum as well, which is where this piece comes in. What do you do when your idea is a great one, but it's tiny? It's so small that you're not sure the box you want to put it in will even notice that it's there. You can't stretch it without worrying about it snapping in two and no matter how much you think about it and try to brainstorm your way into making it larger, nothing seems to work. If you're a planner like me, you'll usually be aware of this before you put pen to paper, but sometimes even the best planners have great big plans for ideas that are just too small. So, here are some options for if you choose to try and make a little idea into a big story.


One thing that works for me when an idea is too small to support itself in a full length novel, is to set it to one side, check in on it occasionally and see if it grows on its own. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, but as long as you keep it earmarked for a possible book, then you give it the chance to feed itself and fill up to the point where it fits in the box without the need for packing to balance it out.


Sometimes an idea won't do enough growing to ever be considered large enough to fill a book, in those cases you can sometimes alter it to be a small arc in one of your current WIPs, or in a new project where you take the bare bones of another story and use the smaller idea to help that one grow too. It doesn't always work that way because sometimes you'll find that an idea is too specific to marry it with another without losing the plot points you wanted to create.

And finally, #3 - LEAVE IT AS IS

There are no rules when it comes to how long a book is. Well, there are rules, but there are also awesome short stories and just because an idea you have is too small to fill fifty-thousand words, that doesn't mean that it should be shelved and/or never used. Some ideas are just too awesome to do that to and so a lot of great authors have taken a lot of smaller ideas and put them together in a collection of short stories. Just because they're in the same "book" doesn't mean that they all have to intertwine, though generally speaking they usually all share a common genre, such as detective or horror or fantasy. It's a great way to use those unfulfilled stories and turn them into a collection of awesome short ones.

However you choose to get your ideas to work for you, remember that while there are rules as to how things should be done in the writing world, part of being a writer is knowing which rules you can bend, which ones you can outright break and which ones you need to stick to no matter what. When you have that worked out you can make any idea - big or small - work for you to create the story that you see in your head. After all, that's what writing is about, sharing the impossible, creating from nothing and sending your ideas out into the world and hoping they soar to the clouds. 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 1 May 2015

Making Your Ideas Work: When You Start Off Too Big - The Creative Process

Making Your Ideas Work: When You Start Off Too Big

The key to any good project is how you start preparing. Personally, I'm a planner, I always have been in regards to my writing (a piece about which can be found here) and I don't think I'll ever stop planning. At least, not unless I find another way that doesn't involve so much micromanaging and still works. However, there are times when you'll have an idea, you'll wrestle it to the ground and you'll start trying to fit it into the box you'd picked out specially for it. And that's when you realise, it's too big. I don't mean that the box is slightly overflowing and you'll have to sit on it to get the lid to close, I mean it's WAY too big. The box has practically collapsed from the sheer enormity of it. The sides are almost on the floor and
 there's no way it's gonna fit. 

So, what do you do? If you're like me and you take your time to build your ideas and you plan and map out each chapter, you'll have hopefully realised that your idea was too big before you'd invested hours of painstaking writing into trying to make it fit into the plot. If not, then that's when you have a problem, because while the indie world doesn't have  many rules regarding word count, there does still come a point where you have to say "it's too much". The kind of idea I'm talking about is the kind that meets those rules, and snaps them in half. Either way, whichever kind of writer you are, you're going to have some serious issues if you don't do something about the idea, because if you want it to end up as a book, you'll need to find a way to either scale it down or draw it out. I'll discuss both of those in more detail.


Whenever you write the first draft, you're aware that some things that get written won't make it into the final copy. The same can be said for ideas. Do you need every little thing you've thought of to make it into the actual book, or will leaving out a few bits and pieces here and there allow you to parse down the word count, but keep the story just as awesome? Only you really can answer this, because it's your idea. Think of it this way, if you've ever read a book that then got turned into a movie, you'll have noticed that some of the scenes in the book didn't make it into the 90+ minutes of the movie. Sometimes you'll think that a certain scene WAS needed because it helped to explain something else that WAS included, but you get the general idea. While it's completely fine to write a seven hundred page novel (and I've read a couple of really good ones where anything left out would have ruined the book in my opinion), you have to realise that for some critics and reviewers, there'll be some scenes that they see as completely unnecessary and filler that should have been cut.

That's the hard thing about writing an idea. Even if you're really good at capturing the idea and describing it in beautiful technicolour through words, some people are always going to see parts of it that weren't needed and since you're the one who wrote it, it may seem that they are missing the point. However, most writers need an outside perspective to decide whether a certain scene is critical, and that's why we have editors. I know that for me, I've written a killer scene (both literally and figuratively) and then been told by my editor that for the sake of the rest of the book, it has to go, and they're right. If your idea is too big to be told in one go, you have another option that I'll come to in a moment, but if you choose to do it in one huge book, be prepared to lose some scenes that you may love. This
 is good advice no matter how big your idea is: not everything you write will make it to the final draft and that's often for the best.


Now the other option for this situation is to see if the idea will grow more, so that you can make it into a series. There are numerous popular trilogies out right now and they all started out as an idea, possibly one that was just too huge to fit into one 70K word novel. If your idea is big enough to span a few books, then go for it and be happy that you didn't set the idea aside for something smaller. However, I do have a few pieces of advice.

Generally speaking, when someone buys the first book in a series, they are expecting an over-reaching story arc - i.e the big idea, as well as a smaller story arc that spans the book - i.e something that introduces the story and then resolves and/or leads to the next in the series. If you have enough of an idea to span three books, but can't break it into a smaller arc for each one, you may find yourself with some unhappy readers. People generally want there to be a reason for the split in the books rather than being told "it was too long for one" because that makes them feel like they have been charged for two books but only one story. I'm not saying that it can't be done that way, just that I would warn against it. As with the long novel, I have read and loved series that don't have mini arcs, and when done well they can be excellent to read, you just have to be careful how you construct your words.

So, those are the two options for when your idea is too big, but what happens though when your idea is a bit too small and needs to be plumper before it can fit across fifty thousand words? I'll be writing a piece about that soon. Remember though, your mileage may, of course, vary, everyone is different and every idea unique.

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 27 February 2015

Guest Blogger - Jennifer Loiske

Good Morning!
I am joined today by Jennifer Loiske, a fellow indie author who writes young adult paranormal fiction. I asked her to write a piece about her writing journey and will also include the reviews I've done for two of her books. But first, a little about Jennifer!

Jennifer Loiske lives in Finland in Naantali, which is a small sunny town on the southwest coast. She is a Teen/YA paranormal fiction author, with four exciting series available worldwide; McLean Twins series for teen readers, Immortal Blood series for mature young adult readers, Blood Hunters series, also for mature young adults, which is a follow up for Immortal Blood series and is created by the readers’ requests, and The Shape Shifter series for anyone age 16 and up. 

Jennifer’s stories are full of creatures of the night. Vampires, demons, witches, shape shifters… but even if they are mostly fiction you can find a hint of a truth in every story. Jennifer loves to research so every time she gets an idea of a new story she does a crazy Google session looking for places, old myths, names, folklores, magical items…anything that could spice up her story and make it more real for the readers. Jennifer is also part of Authors For Charity, an international author alliance, and team member in Epilepsy FI magazine. She is a pre-school teacher by profession. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon and on her website.


Sometimes we cannot choose where the journey will take us. We’ll just have to follow the flow and see what happens… I’ve always wanted be a writer, but life took me on a different direction for years. However, I believe things happen when they are meant to happen, and me starting to write happened stealthily. At first I filled millions of post-it notes with my scribbles. Then the post-it notes were replaced with sheets of paper, and eventually moved to a file in the depths of my laptop. Now I have ten teen/YA novels available worldwide, and my short stories have been published in three different anthologies.

I’m a pre-school teacher by profession, a mom of two young women, and an eternal teenager by heart. So writing for young adults comes easily for me. I think I’m just as excited about the endless ‘what ifs’ as they are, intrigued by the paranormal world and always ready for an adventure. I enjoy watching teen movies, and reading YA literature, and even my favourite TV-series are meant for young adults. Why? I have no idea. I’ve tried to be more adult but gave up, as it just isn’t me. I want to believe there’s more than meets the eye and my hyperactive imagination creates the wildest of possibilities about this world were living in.

Vampires, werewolves, demons, witches and other paranormal creatures are my everyday life. In the darkness, strange thoughts are filling my mind and forcing me to write about them, so YA fiction is not only my natural choice but also a way of keeping my dark side on a leash. Old myths and legends fascinate me, and I love to add a hint of truth in every story. In fact, half of my time goes with research, finding the most engrossing tales and entwining the nuggets of fact with a fiction. I also love planting some educational seeds into my text, and to my delight the readers have been very perceptive and found at least some of my tips. For me, it’s extremely important to have a control over my stories, to stand behind my words and never ever cross the line. After all, there is a reason why some books are for young adults and some for adults only. My stories must be the kind of I’d let my own teens to read.

My stories are fast paced, fun, sassy and full of suspense. I love cliffhangers, and yes, I’m a serial writer (is that even a saying?), as well as a serial reader, and I try to stay true to my writing style. Then again, I do have four different series so I can sidestep a little if needed. I hope you’ll find your next read amongst my books and enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!


Her novel BLACK DIAMOND is available from Amazon here. Below is the blurb and following that, my review!

After her mom’s sudden death, twelve-year-old Shannon McLean has to move from the US to the English countryside to live with her mysterious father, Connor McLean, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Soon she discovers that he doesn’t want her around and her moving into his huge manor, Greyman Hill, is nothing more to him than a compulsory deal. But if he does not exactly give her a warm welcome, his servant Robert is most likely an incarnation of evil. He runs the house with an iron touch and makes everyone who works there his little puppets.

Weird things start to happen and the whole place scares the crap out of Shannon. Her dad can control her just by looking at her. The walls are full of secret passages and apparently she has the talent to awaken the ghosts in them. Every day is worse than the day before and she wants badly to run away but discovers it’s impossible. If she wants to stay alive she has to do exactly as her dad says or else she will not only jeopardize her own life but also the lives of the people around her.

While Shannon struggles to find the magic inside her, Connor is slowly turning into a demon. One carelessly spoken word from her could either save or destroy them both. In the end she has to decide whether to save herself and her loved ones, or lose her dad to the darkness and evil that threaten to eat his soul.

My review: 5/5 Great start to a great series!

BLACK DIAMOND starts with the death of Shannon's mother, leading to her being left alone in a hotel, waiting to meet the father she never knew. As she's taken from the hotel and back to his large estate, she starts to realise that things are not as they seem. There are people with strange tattoos on their wrists who act as though they are robots or servents and are scared to talk to Shannon. When first meeting her father, she is struck by how not-normal he is about the whole thing and within the first twelve hours she realises that she's in danger and needs to escape. Enter her twin brother, someone she didn't even know existed, and the world of witchcraft and devils.

This is a YA book, and excellently written. I found myself drawn to Shannon and going along with her as she discovered more and more about her father and the strange people who reside with him. I enjoyed reading and discovering more about the bond between the twins and the history of the family. When faced with the prospect of having to defeat the biggest demon they have met, I found myself desperate for them to succeed without risking their father's life. The book is well written, beautifully constructed and will keep you turning page after page. I would recommend not just to young adults, but also to those who enjoy reading about good hopefully triumphing over evil! Highly enjoyable and recommended!

The second in the McLean Twins series recently came out - DEMON'S TOUCH - and can be found on Amazon here. Below is the blurb and following that my review!

“Magic is all about words and believing. If you believe then anything is possible.”

Shannon McLean had come a long way since she lost her mother. A while ago she’d thought she was alone in the world, a plain Jane with no place to go. Now she knew better. Suddenly she was surrounded by relatives: a crazy talented twin brother, Ian, who literally held the keys to magic in his hands; a demonic father, Connor, who had paid a high price for a one-way ticket to hell; and a wannabe big brother, Simon, who was not only half demon but also a hit man of some sort; and herself … so not a plain Jane but a witch with ancient spells tingling on her fingertips.

Oh, and if that were not enough of a burden for a thirteen-year-old girl, her father had sent her to London on an impossible quest. Truth be told, she might have volunteered, but only because she naively believed that the world was beneath her feet and she was capable of performing a miracle as long as her brother stood beside her. She’d been so wrong.

No matter what she did, or who tried to help her, she kept failing time and time again, and time was not something she had. If she ever intended to save her father from becoming the next king of hell, she had to act fast. She had to find a way to do the impossible and save a demon. After all, every witch knows the hard truth: demons cannot be saved. 

My review: 5/5 The much-awaited sequel!

It has arrived! The long awaited sequel to Black Diamond and finally I got to sit down and read what's been going on with Shannon, Ian, Simon and the gang. Picking up where the last book left off, they're off to find a relative who will hopefully help them and be the key to saving their father, and Simon. However, a little over eager and they may end up losing the very things they hold dead. It's a good one, and we are left hanging over the edge of a scary cliffhanger for the end, and I know I'm not the only one wanting to know when the next book will be out!

Introducing new quirky characters, this book is well written and executed brilliantly. Jennifer Loiske has once again found a way to drag you in from the first page and make it so you don't want to put the book down until you're done with it. I read through this in a late night session because I was desperate to know whether the twins would be able to pull off the spell they so desperately wanted, or if they would make things worse for themselves. An excellent YA paranormal with the right amount of teenage angst, drama and a few laughs here and there. I love this series and will continue to read it, but I suggest if you like YA books of this kind, then you'd do well to do the same! Highly recommended!

If you're interested in doing a guest blog post, please contact the team at