Celebrate the Small Things: More Video!

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 know Friday is long gone, but this week I would like to celebrate more video! I made another trailer for my fantasy novel, Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble. This one is more of a character study, rather than a preview of what the story is about, like my last trailer which you can see by clicking here.

I thought this would be a more interesting way of introducing my main character, Tara Triannon. Any and all feedback/comments are appreciated. Thanks!

What other celebrations are going on out there?



© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2014. All rights reserved.

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.

* * * * *

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.  http://melissajanda.wordpress.com/


 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.  http://njmagas.wordpress.com/




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).  http://storytreasury.wordpress.com/


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!

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!

A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 26

Z is for — Zorro, from Johnston McCulley’s classic adventure, The Mark of Zorro

Swish, swish, swish. Three flicks of the blade carve the infamous Z as Zorro leaves his mark on another adversary. Dressed all in black, his face hidden behind a black mask, the legendary hero of 1820s Spanish California rides to the rescue of the poor and oppressed, fighting injustice like a Robin Hood of the old west. Don Diego de la Vega, nobleman and wealthy landowner, plays the vapid fop in public while hiding his secret identity as the masked highwayman.

Zorro (Spanish for fox) was originally created by McCulley in 1919 as a five-part serialized story entitled The Curse of Capistrano — the nickname given Zorro by the corrupt politicians and soldiers for his constant bedeviling. The 1920 silent film with Douglas Fairbanks further popularized the tale. McCulley penned over 60 stories of the adventures of Zorro, and the character has since been immortalized in many other film and novel and television adaptations.

I always liked the Disney TV series with Guy Williams that originally ran from 1957 to 1959. I remember watching the reruns as I was growing up. I’ve also seen the 1920 Fairbanks movie and both movies with Antonio Banderas, from 1998 and 2005. On my to-be-watched list are the 1940 film with Tyrone Power, the 1990s series with Duncan Regehr, and some of the animated versions.

Best of all, though, I liked the Queen of Swords — Zorro with a twist: a female swordswoman in a black mask, fighting injustice in early 19th century Spanish California. The TV series with Tessie Santiago ran for one season from 2000 to 2001. Given the scarcity of female sword-wielding action heroes, I so wish it had run longer.



Tessie Santiago as Tessa Alvarado in The Queen of Swords

Tessie Santiago as Tessa Alvarado in
The Queen of Swords

A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 20

T is for — TinTin, from The Adventures of TinTin by Belgian cartoonist Herge

I’d never heard of TinTin until my family and I saw the Steven Spielberg / Peter Jackson movie The Adventures of TinTin that hit theaters in 2011. Such a wonderful blend of action and comedy! We enjoyed it immensely. Afterward, we hit the library and looked up the books on which the movie was based and discovered a new favorite author. Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, under the pseudonym of Herge, had written over twenty comic-book-style books relating the many adventures of TinTin and his faithful dog, Snowy.

TinTin, a young Belgian reporter, investigates news stories all over the world, and, along with Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and the bumbling detective duo, Thomson and Thompson, heroically takes down the villains. The books were written from the 1930s through the 1970s, and though they are exciting and funny, they aren’t always politically correct, so be warned if you read them.

The Spielberg / Jackson movie was based on three of Herge’s books: The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944), and The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941). A sequel to the TinTin movie, The Adventures of TinTin: Prisoners of the Sun, is due out in 2016. I can’t wait to see it.

Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock, TinTin, Thomson & Thompson, Bianca Castafiore, and Snowy from Herge's The Adventures of TinTin

Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock, TinTin, Thomson & Thompson, Bianca Castafiore, and Snowy
from Herge’s The Adventures of TinTin


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 19

S is for — Severus Snape, from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

Out of all the many characters in Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the most complex and interesting was Severus Snape. Potions Master, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (briefly), Half-blood Prince, member of the Order of the Phoenix, Death-Eater. Snape had many titles, but I would add another: Hero. Unbeknownst to everyone but Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Snape walked a razor line between the Order of the Phoenix and the side of good, and Voldemort and the evil Death-Eaters, working tirelessly to keep Harry Potter alive because of his deep love for Harry’s mother, Lily. Yes, he initially chose the wrong path toward darkness, but the strength of his love redeemed him and brought him back from the edge of evil.

It’s no wonder he chose the dark path, considering his childhood of neglect and abuse and the bullying he suffered from James Potter (Harry’s father) and Sirius Black. They tormented him for no reason other than his unkemptness and outcast personality and his friendship with Lily, in whom James had an interest. After the bullying was revealed via Harry’s sneaking a look at Snape’s memories in the Pensieve in The Order of the Phoenix, I disliked James Potter as much as Snape did. When Harry asked Sirius about the episode, Sirius’ only excuse was that James was 15 and “A lot of people are idiots at the age of 15.” Well, I’m sorry, but being 15 is no excuse for bad behavior, and there is NO excuse for bullying, period.

After that episode, I really wanted Harry to man up and apologize to Snape for his father’s behavior. I don’t know if it would have made a difference in Snape’s treatment of Harry because Snape’s hatred of James was so deep-seated, but it seemed like the right thing to do, and I would have gained respect for Harry if he’d done it. As it was, I lost some respect for him and James and Sirius, and my opinion of them was forever colored by that incident.

Snape lived a lonely and difficult life, completely reviled and misunderstood, yet he had courage and strength of character and such capacity for love. His love for Lily, though unrequited, saved his soul. I mourned his tragic end and wondered what he would have been like if he’d had a secure and loving childhood and if Lily had loved him back. Sadly, I’ll never know.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series Photo Credit: Harry Potter Wikia

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
in the Harry Potter series
Photo Credit: Harry Potter Wikia


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 18

R is for — Robin Hood, legendary outlaw and hero of Sherwood Forest

When someone mentions Robin Hood, my first thought is of the 1938 movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. I love their portrayals of Robin and Maid Marian, and there’s enough action and sword fighting for a rousing good time. Heroes of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and his Merry Men battle the evil Prince John and his thugs, Guy of Gisbourne and the cowardly Sheriff of Nottingham, protecting the weak and stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

As much as I love the movie, I like the book even more. I read Paul Creswick’s 1917 edition, which differs quite a bit from the movie and gives an in-depth portrayal of Robin of Locksley’s life from a young boy, through adulthood, to his sad end. The rich details and background make his story that much more compelling. The reader gets to see what made him the man he was.

According to the legend, Robin of Locksley lived during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart, who ruled England in the Middle Ages, during the twelfth century. It’s not known for certain if the legend is based on fact or fancy, but it’s the kind of story that everyone wants to believe in — where good triumphs over evil and tyranny is thrown down.

I’ve enjoyed many versions of the Robin Hood story over the years, from books, movies, and even cartoons. The most outlandish adaptation was Rocket Robin Hood, a Canadian cartoon that aired in the late 1960s and had Robin and his merry band fighting Prince John in outer space on the New Sherwood Planet Asteroid in the year 3000. My favorite version, and by far the funniest, is the 1958 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies Robin Hood Daffy, with Daffy Duck in the title role and Porky Pig as Friar Tuck. I’ve seen it a thousand times, and it still makes me giggle like I did when I first saw it as a kid. For those who like cartoons, here’s a link to it.

Robin Hood Daffy


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 16

P is for — Sir Percy Blakeney, from Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I love adventure stories. The Scarlet Pimpernel is another exciting adventure set in England and France during the French Revolution. Many, many aristocrats — men, women, and children — have been sent to the guillotine, regardless of whether or not they’ve personally oppressed the poor. All French aristocrats are guilty in the eyes of the lower classes and must pay the price. Sir Percy Blakeney, an English nobleman and master of disguise, daringly rescues innocent people bound for the guillotine and smuggles them to safety in England. His calling card — the seal of a small, star-shaped, red flower: a scarlet pimpernel. Acting the brainless fop in public, he engages in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the leaders of the Revolution who are determined to catch him.

I love the 1982 movie version with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen (pre-Gandalf). Even though it’s a made-for-TV-movie, it’s a great swashbuckler with sword fights and daring escapes, beautiful costumes, and first-rate performances by the lead actors. I haven’t yet seen the 1934 movie with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon, but I’ve read good things about it and have it high up on my to-be-watched list.



A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 15

O is for — Odysseus, from Homer’s The Odyssey

“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”

I had to memorize those first four lines, along with some other passages, in one of my high school English classes, some thirty-plus years ago. To this day, I can still recite the first two lines from memory, which amazes me since half the time, I can’t remember what day of the week it is.

This is another one of those books I had fully expected to dislike or be bored with. But the more I read, the more I realized the poetic translation from the Greek original wasn’t that difficult to understand, and the exciting adventure it told made the reading well worth the effort. Who can forget Odysseus’ battles with Polyphemus the Cyclops, or the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis? His ten-year struggle to return home after the fall of Troy is truly epic.

The story has been brought to the big screen a number of times with varying results. I enjoyed the 1954 version, entitled Ulysses (Odysseus in Roman mythology), with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. The movie takes liberties with the book as all movies do, but it’s still an entertaining production. From what I’ve read, the 1997 TV miniseries, The Odyssey, with Armand Assante is also quite good. It’s currently on my very long to-be-watched list.


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 14

N is for — Nancy Drew, from the Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene

I first discovered Nancy Drew when I was nine years old. My mom had eight of the old titles on the shelf, having enjoyed them, herself, when she was a youngster. I picked up The Secret of the Old Clock, the first book in the series, and was immediately drawn into the mystery and excitement of a missing will, a trail of clues, and a frightening encounter with a gang of robbers. From there, I read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on, eventually reading all the way up through the first fifty-six Grosset and Dunlap editions.

Nancy Drew has only grown in popularity, engendering many spin-offs for varying age groups, such as the Nancy Drew Files, Nancy Drew Notebooks, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, and Nancy Drew Girl Detective, to name a few, along with crossover titles with those detective brothers, the Hardy Boys. There’ve been movies, a TV series, (which I also loved), and now computer games, which my daughter loves (and I find fun, too!). My daughter is following in my footsteps and working her way through the original series from the beginning, and she’s read some of the other series, as well.

That’s what I like most about Nancy Drew — my family has solved mysteries along with her for three generations, and will hopefully continue to do so for many more.

Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew in The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries, 1977-1979

Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew in
The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries, 1977-1979