My Writing Process Blog Hop!

Last week, Heather McCubbin invited me to join her in the “My Writing Process” Blog Hop. I was flattered to be included and said, “Yes, I’m in!” Heather is a published author who blogs about her works in progress and bookish thoughts, and writes book reviews. You can visit her here at Pushing the Pen.

The idea of this blog hop is to write about how we write. What makes the creative juices flow? Then we introduce three more writers who will talk about their processes the following week. So, on with the show!

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I write best in an empty house with complete silence. No people, no phones, no other distractions around me. I know some people listen to music when they write, but I’ve never been able to do that. Music has a powerful effect on me and takes over my brain, drowning out creative thought. Even conversations in other rooms tug at the threads of my thoughts until the scene I’m trying to build unravels. Happily, though, my kids have gotten good at doing quiet things for the few hours I snatch during the summer weeks when they’re home on school vacation. As much as I enjoy having them home, I have to say I’m much more productive when they’re in school.

When I do get a quiet moment to sit down to write, I start by reading the last few pages from my previous session to get back into my character’s mind. Usually I have a general idea of how the next scene should go, but sometimes I don’t. Either way, I let my character lead me through it. When I’m on a roll, it’s like watching a movie in my mind and the words tumble out of my head so fast I can hardly write them down fast enough.

I don’t use an outline. I know the beginnings of my stories and the endings and some of the major points in between. The rest I create as I go, following the paths of my characters as they live out their adventures. I also love drawing maps of the fictional worlds my characters inhabit. I have a sketchbook full of maps and timelines and illustrations of places that help me visualize the various settings.

My stories are always in my head. I plot scenes while doing mundane chores like washing dishes, doing laundry, and mowing the lawn. I think about them all the time, no matter where I am. Creating stories is almost as integral to my life as breathing. When I can’t write for a few days due to whatever circumstances, I go through withdrawal and get REALLY cranky. I’m blessed, though, because my family is tolerant and encouraging of my need to write. I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

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The Blog Hop continues with these awesome writers — Melissa Janda, N. J. Magas, and Sonia Lal. I met them during the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Melissa’s blog, A Time to Write, overflowed with great writing tips and advice. N. J., in her blog Diary of an Aspiring Writer, wrote amusingly about the books in her library, while Sonia’s Story Treasury entertained with short fiction and bookish topics. I enjoyed their posts and, as a newbie blogger, very much appreciated their support of mine. Here they are in their own words:


Melissa_Janda_Small_PhotoMelissa Janda: After two decades climbing the proverbial corporate ladder, I “retired” to spend more time with my kids and pursue my dream of becoming an author. I discovered my passion for writing while composing a short story for my husband. I had no idea how profoundly the process would affect me. I was transported to another place where hours ticked by like minutes. I found it puzzling how a collection of sentences or even a solitary phrase I wrote could evoke such emotion. I’m sure it had a lot to do with the subject, but my love affair with writing began that day.

I completed my first novel in March 2013 and after a series of rejections, I realized I had much to learn. I started blogging that same month and have been honing my craft ever since. I’m currently working on a YA series I started during NaNoWriMo 2013.

I live in central Texas with my husband (the love of my life and greatest supporter), my son and daughter who continually floor me with their perspective on life (seeing life through their eyes is a gift), and two dogs (a Lab mix we rescued from the side of the road and a Maltipoo that came special delivery one Christmas via Bella the elf).

 When not writing, I feed the muse by spending time with family, reading, or doing something creative (decorating, scrapbooking, crafting, drawing, party-planning, and photography). To combat writer’s block, I run, bike, swim, or do something physical. It works every time.

I’ve recently caught a severe case of wanderlust and will be visiting Ireland with my family in the fall. Hmm…it might just be the setting of my next novel.


 NJ_Magas_Small_PhotoN. J. Magas: N J Magas lives in Kyoto, Japan where she writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror. When she’s not hunched over a keyboard flushing out the voices, she’s practicing kendo, or kyudo or any number of other, non-weaponized activities.




sonia_lal_Small_logoSonia Lal: Sonia Lal has been an avid reader her entire life, but she only became a fantasy and science fiction reader sometime in junior high. This, oddly, is the same time as she started to write and her first stories were fantasy. Her fiction is still mostly fantasy. On rare occasions, she will write pieces in other genres.

When she is not writing or reading, she may be found gazing out the window and listening to music, or watching TV (and by TV, she means a real TV or Netflix or YouTube or some other video).


Melissa and N. J. will be posting about their writing processes on Monday, July 7th, and Sonia will post in a couple of weeks when things quiet down for her. Hope you enjoy their blogs as much as I do!

Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate The Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

This week has had its ups and downs, but these are the good parts:

  1. Strawberries! We went strawberry picking and they were delicious!
  2. Had a wonderful time with family and friends at the wedding last weekend.
  3. Got some housecleaning done.
  4. Looking forward to more great weather this weekend.

What other celebrations are going on out there?

Quality, or Lack Thereof

I haven’t read many self-published books. I never really thought about it until I decided to go the self-publishing route with my own novel. So far, the ones I’ve read have run the gamut from having only a few typos and a small need for editing to having so many typos, misspellings, tautology, etc., that it was hard to keep my head in the story.

I know there are reviewers out there who refuse to review self-published books, and those who have read them bemoan this lack of quality — and rightly so. With all the resources available to writers there’s no reason self-published books shouldn’t be on par with the majority of traditionally-published books.

I say the majority because I’ve read a few traditionally-published novels lately with a surprising number of typos and/or misused words. I don’t know if it has always been this way or if I’m just noticing it more since I’ve become more serious about my own work, but the fact is, traditionally-published books are not perfect.

Photo credit: Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

Take the book I’m reading right now, for example: Aurian by Maggie Furey, published by Bantam Spectra in 1994. I discovered to my extreme annoyance that this book is missing over 30 pages. Half of chapters 16 and 18 and all of chapter 17 are not there. The page numbers go up through 250, then pages 219 through 250 are repeated, and then the story continues on page 283. Before the break, the villain is whole and plotting the destruction of Aurian, who has escaped his clutches by ship. When the story picks up again, the villain is blinded and bedridden and Aurian’s ship has been wrecked. What happened? If I want to know, I have to order another copy of the book (none of the local libraries have one) and hope it is complete.

I don’t know what happened there with quality control, but it’s certainly worse than any problem I’ve had with a self-published book. And while I know this is an isolated occurrence, I hope that readers will realize that traditionally-published books can have mistakes in them — and sometimes plotting and character development problems too — and that it’s unfair to put them on so lofty a pedestal above those that are self-published. I also hope that self-publishers will do their part to bring their books to a higher level of quality and help abolish the stigma attached to them simply for being self-published.

I will do my utmost to reach that level.

Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate The Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

What am I celebrating this week?

  1. I’ve been learning a lot about book cover design. (See previous post.)
  2. I’ve finally gotten my blog posts written.
  3. My family and I spent a fun day with friends relaxing, swimming, and canoeing on Lake Champlain.
  4. We’ll be attending the wedding of a long-time family friend this weekend, and the weather looks like it’ll be perfect.

What other celebrations are going on out there?

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I’ve been researching book cover design to learn more about what sells and what doesn’t. In that all-important first moment when potential buyers see your book either online or on a brick-and-mortar store shelf, does the cover grab them and shout “Buy me!” or does it say “Meh” and let them get away?Book_I_WhiteCover

I read that analyzing covers of recently published books is a great way to get ideas that will make your book an eye-catcher. Sometimes I found it difficult, though, to figure out why some covers worked better than others. For example, on The Book Designer Web site, Joel Friedlander critiques book covers submitted by writers/designers, awarding gold stars to the best ones and useful comments to others. I went through and studied the covers, then read his comments to see if we had similar thoughts. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes not. The crux of the matter is that it’s all subjective. One person’s beauty is another’s bleh.

The site did have some good basic design tips which I found helpful.
• Decide what your principal focus will be and work around that. Use only a few images and don’t clutter.
• Don’t use a white background. Use texture, color, or illustration instead.
• Make sure the text stands out and is easy to read.
• The title needs to be large enough to be read when shrunk to Amazon thumbnail size.
• Use images, colors, and fonts that convey the tone/mood of the book.

A few seconds’ glance is all you get when someone picks up your book. In those few moments, your cover should communicate the genre, the theme or basic subject of the book, and the tone. It should lead the person into your story and make them not want to leave. I know that sounds like common sense, but it’s a lot harder than it seems.

I had some general ideas of what I thought should be on the cover of my book, one of which was to focus on my main character, a swordswoman with silver-blonde hair. Both the book I’m currently reading and the one I’m going to read next have swordswomen prominently on the covers. But then I read where one person didn’t like putting characters on book covers because she preferred to leave the characters’ faces to the readers’ imaginations.

What do you think? Does it bother you to have an image of the main character on the book cover? I’d love to hear your opinions!

Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate The Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

It’s been a crazy week with the end of the school year and with my daughter “graduating” from middle school. This fall she’ll be a freshman in high school which makes me more than a little nervous. My baby is growing up way too fast.

Now that I have a moment to breathe, I can think about things to celebrate.

  1. The company I started to publish my own books, Book and Sword Publishing, is financially up and running now. I’m really excited about that!
  2. Flowers are blooming in my gardens, which always makes me happy.
  3. I’m looking forward to visiting family and spending time with my Dad this Father’s Day weekend.

What other celebrations are going on out there?

Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate The Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here. CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

I love the idea of focusing on the positive and taking time to think about the good things that have happened, so for this week I’m celebrating:

  1. Finished going through the proofreading edits for my book! Now on to cover design…
  2. Had great conversations and met several new blog friends from my first Insecure Writer’s Support Group post on Wednesday.
  3. Actually got caught up with some of my household chores.
  4. Celebrated National Donut Day today with a Boston Crème donut. Absolutely delicious!

What other celebrations are going on out there?

IWSG / Paranoia

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

This will be my first IWSG post and as an aspiring author on the verge of self-publishing my first book, I’m finding myself in the insecure category more often than I’d like.

I write in the fantasy genre, and recently I’ve been reading some old fantasy novels I bought back in the 1980s and ’90s that I’d never gotten around to reading before. Every so often, I run across a name or a place or a plot circumstance that is similar to something in my book, and I get really paranoid that I’ll publish my book and then someone will read it and say one of my characters or a part of my story is just like some other novel published years ago (that I’ve never read) and accuse me of plagiarism or of being a copycat and ripping off other authors’ stories or… well you get the idea.

For example, in the book I’m currently reading, Aurian, by Maggie Furey, (published in 1994), I discovered that part of the backstory/history of the main character’s world includes a clash of magical beings referred to as the Cataclysm and Mage Wars. Now my story, that I’ve been working on in bits and pieces for almost thirty years, also has a clash of magics called the Cataclysm. Granted, the Cataclysm in my novel happens on a much smaller scale, but it does similarly involve an ancient race of magical beings whose magical battle also changes the very fiber of a part of my fictional world. And there are Wizard Wars in my novel’s history, as well.

I know Mage/Wizard Wars and magical clashes are not original by any means. But when I read something similar to events or characters in my book — like the use of the word Cataclysm — I get paranoid. Is it just me or does anyone else ever worry about this kind of thing?