Tag Archives: creative process

#amreading: the genesis of an author

Nymphenburg, View From the Seaside painting by Joseph Wenglein 1883

Nymphenburg, View From the Seaside painting by Joseph Wenglein 1883

I find the process of creativity as experienced by others intriguing, and am always curious about how they became authors.

My own journey to this place in my life was pretty tame. But some people  become authors via more adventurous, alternative paths.

This notion is explored in Elizabeth McKenzie’s frank, autobiographical post published on January 26, 2016, for LitHub.

Max Ernst, The Elephant Celebes 1921, Tate, London via WikipediaAppropriately titled “Surrealism and Decomposition. Or How I Wrote My Novel,”  McKenzie takes us on a journey through both her personal quest for enlightenment and creativity and the authors whose works colored her writing life. The quote that hooked me into reading this piece: “I read Rimbaud and Breton and Lautreamont and started according my dreams the respect I felt towards art. I wanted to have visions, I wanted, as Rimbaud put it, to take part in the systematic disordering of the senses.”

Her honest account of her sometimes psychedelic journey through alternate forms of consciousness and literary greatness is quite intriguing and took me back to my college days when many of my friends also chose that path for enlightenment.

Psychedelics were never an option for me, although in that way I was the odd one in my circle. The notion of them frightened me. Life in the early 1970s was surreal enough in its cold reality. My form of mind-expansion came in books.

The authors whose works influenced me as a young adult might surprise those who know me.

In my twenties, sci-fi and fantasy books were expensive and hard to get. The libraries stocked a few, but not as many as I required, as fast as I read.

When I was young, my parents were prolific readers and were members of both Doubleday Book Club and Science Fiction Book Club. They also purchased two to four paperbacks a week at the drugstore and subscribed to Analog and several other magazines.

samuel pepys diaryThere was always something new and wonderful to read around our house, and most of it was speculative fiction, although we had the entire 54 volume leather-bound set of the Great Books of the Western World, and our father insisted we attempt to read and discuss what we could.

Some were mostly understandable, such as William Shakespeare and Samuel Pepys.

Plato, not so much, and yet his work did influence me.

At the age of 14 I didn’t understand Pepys, but I read him, and while we were bass fishing on a Saturday morning, Dad would talk about the differences between life and morality in Pepys’ London and our life in suburban America in 1969. His thought was that I should learn about the 17th century and the Great Fire in London from an eye witness, just as I had learned about the war in the Pacific from John F. Kennedy‘s autobiographical novel,  PT 109.

But Pepys’ London of 1666 was so different from the ‘Mod’ subculture of the London of 1966 (and the Beatles) that I was familiar with thanks to Life magazine. To me, it was almost like speculative fiction. In many ways it was more difficult  for me to believe in historical London than Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

When I married and left home, I still read every sci-fi or fantasy novel that came out in paperback, budgeting for books the way others of my acquaintance budgeted for beer. I read the classics for my irregular college classes, and learned to love Chaucer and James Joyce. For a variety of reasons I never earned a college degree, but I’ve never stopped reading and researching great literature.

But reading for entertainment was still my “drug.” I jonesed for new books by the great ones, Anne McCaffrey, Jack Chalker, and Roger Zelazny, reading and rereading them until they were shreds held together with duct tape.

As a married student attending college in Bellingham Washington, purchasing books for pleasure became a luxury. I found a secondhand bookstore where I could get a brown paper shopping bag full of novels in too poor a condition to sell on their shelves for $2.00 a bag if you had a bag of books to trade in.

As a college drop-out I went through a bag of books every week, and within a year, I had read every book they had.

Devils Cub Georgette HeyerThus, out of desperation, I discovered a whole new (to me) genre: regency romances written by Georgette Heyer, and other romance writers of that generation. Those books, along with beat up copies of bestsellers by Jack Kerouac, James Michener, and Jacqueline Susann began to show up in the pile beside my bed.

So at least some of my literary influences can be traced back to dragons, booze, morality, and England’s romantic Regency—lived vicariously through these authors’ eyes.

Always when the budget permitted, I returned to Tolkien, Zelazny, McCaffrey, Asimov, Bradbury, and as time passed, Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Tad Williams, L.E. Modesitt Jr., and Robert Jordan to name only a few.

And there were so many, many others whose works I enjoyed. By the 1990s, the genres of fantasy and sci-fi were growing authors like a field grows weeds, and I loved it.

All of the books I read as a child and young adult have influenced my writing. They still inspire me.

Nowadays I rarely am able to read more than a chapter or two before falling asleep. My Kindle is full of books, and I haven’t got the time to read them because I have to write my own story. Having the luxury to spend a day wallowing in a book is a treat to be treasured.

Old booksBut it is because of the uncountable authors whose works I have been privileged to read that I was inspired to think that my own scribblings might be worth pursuing.

Writing has always been necessary to me, as natural as breathing. In the beginning, my writing was unformed and was a reflection of whoever I was reading at the moment. As I matured and gained confidence, I found my own ideas and stories, and they took over my life.

Once that happened, I became a keyboard-wielding writing junkie.

Some days I write well, and others not so much, but every day I write something.

And every day I find myself looking for the new book that will rock my universe, a new “drug” to satisfy my craving, even if I know I won’t have time to read it.

I’m addicted to dreams and the people who write about them. Reading is my form of mind expanding inspiration. Without the authors whose books formed my world, I would never have dared to write.

Life would be so boring.

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Talking with Erika M. Szabo

Field Roast holiday roast croppedWe survived another Christmas! The refrigerator is bursting with leftovers, and we had a wonderful dinner with one of our sons, and one of my brothers. Life is good! The carnivores said the turkey was good, but surprisingly to me, given the amount of teasing I endure at their hands, the Hazelnut Cranberry Holiday Roast en Croute was the star of show, with little of it being left over. The world did not stop in its orbit as the vegan meal was consumed with gusto, and no one left the table hungry!

I’m always intrigued by the way other authors think, and today, Erika M Szabo, author of The Ancestors’s Secrets series, has consented to answer a few questions for us.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

ES: I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. I started writing educational books twelve years ago when I received my PhD in Alternative Medicine. I love animals, therefore I created the Read for Animals anthology series and published two books with authors and poets to help animals. The story idea for Ancestor’s Secrets series came from my Hun heritage, from the legends and history. I created a magical, fantasy world using bits of real historical facts and incorporating real life events from my years of working as a trauma nurse into the story.

CJJ: I love that you are able to draw on your heritage for your work. Tell us about your most recent book.

ES:  In the Ancestor’s Secrets series, present and past blends into a paranormal fantasy tale with intriguing clan secrets, magical heritage, love triangle and Ilona’s exciting and dangerous life in a secret society. Ilona is a young doctor settled into a world of logic and reason. She inherits a world of traditions, well-kept secrets and magical powers, and is left to piece together her clan’s past, using nursery rhymes taught to her by her mother. Learning some of the secrets not only confuses her, but places her in mortal danger.  When a sinister man appears, Ilona connects his presence to a series of mysterious deaths. He can influence others to kill her, but why can’t he touch her? There are clues around every corner, and the elusive answers draw her further into the hidden world of her people.  As if the mysteries aren’t enough, her life becomes more complicated when she meets a dashing stranger. Although he saves her life by putting his own life in danger, she senses evil in him. The first book of The Ancestor’s Secrets series raises questions such as: what if there is a secret society exists hidden among us with its strict rules and fiercely enforced laws, and certain members come to possess magical powers? What if finding love, despite the obstacles thrown our way, is possible? What if we could have the power to visit the ancestors in the past and create our own future?

CJJ: That sounds intriguing! How did you come to write this novel?

ES: On a rainy afternoon I couldn’t find any new book to read. I was moping around, browsing my bookshelves, mumbling to myself. After a while my daughter had enough and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

CJJ: I always wonder, and my reader do too, do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

ES:  When I started writing the novel series, I only had a vague outline of the story in my mind, and I kind of let the story develop on its own. Some parts are totally different now than I had originally planned.

CJJ: Many of us write fantasy, but how does your work differ from others of its genre?

ES: The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series written mostly in diary style with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel.

CJJ: We each write for our own reasons, but why do you write what you do?

ES:  My favorite genre to read I love to read is magical realism/fantasy stories, therefore it is my favorite genre to write as well.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

ES: The first edition of my novel series was published by a traditional publisher. I was not satisfied with the editing, book cover, formatting, as well as the full control they had on the story. I decided to break the contract, form my own publishing company and edit, format and publish the story the way I like it.

CJJ: I had a similar experience! What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

ES:  Both have advantages and disadvantages. If your book is accepted by a traditional publisher, read the fine lines of the contract and if it doesn’t suit you, then go indie.

I so agree with you, Erika!  Thank you for visiting today, and I can’t wait to read these books!

erika szabo protectedbythefalconebookBook 1, Protected By The Falcon

Ilona is a doctor and is ruled by logic, yet when she starts to develop unusual powers, her beliefs change and she’s thrown into a world of mysteries, traditions and secrets. Nursery rhymes taught by her mother lead her to discover her clan’s past, which still exist with its fiercely enforced laws. A dangerous dark man stalks Ilona who is unexpectedly rescued by a handsome stranger, Zoltan. As their relationship grows, her feelings for best friend, Bela, starts to fade. When her life and the future of her people become threatened, she must gather all her courage and use her inherited powers to fight back. Infused with Hungarian legend, the twisting plot keeps the reader turning the pages of this extraordinary fantasy story. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is a great read for fantasy lovers and also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Protected-Falcon-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00LNBSKIY

erika m szabo ChosenbytheSwordebook (2)Book 2, Chosen By The Sword

In book one, Protected By The Falcon, Ilona is thrust from her easy and steady life and forced to face the unknown, which prompts her to discover the ancient tribal secrets. The rules of her ancient Hun clan that still exist with strict laws suffocate her, but she is resourceful and daring. She discovers secrets and obtains unimaginable powers to protect her sister, who bears the next leader of the clan. If she does not succeed, the fate of her people is at stake. She must sort through her own feelings about the men in her life. Will she choose Bela, her best friend, or the handsome and noble Zoltan? From the time when her people were nomads, the castles of the 14th century to the present, travel through time with Ilona as she struggles to overcome the obstacles placed in her path by ruthless individuals who want to inflict their rule on the Hun clan. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Sword-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00RAGLWVI

Short Bio of Erika M. Szabo:

ErikaMSzabo I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. The writing bug bit me much later, on a rainy afternoon, when I couldn’t find any new book to read. My daughter had enough of my moping around and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. What if there is a secret society with strict rules and laws exist hidden among us? What if certain members come to possess magical powers? What if those abilities could be used to do good or evil? I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

If you are interested in seeing more of Erika’s work, here are her links:

WEBSITE: http://www.authorerikamszabo.com  

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Erika.M.Szabo.ND.Author

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ErikaMSzabo

LINKEDIN: http://www.lnkd.in/N64qzw

GOOGLE: https://plus.google.com/112402888400847638099/posts   

PINTEREST http://www.pinterest.com/erikamszabo/

SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GoldenBoxBooks

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SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds, Lisa M. Peppan interview

KCover-SWOtRCThe Pacific Northwest has been the home of many famous authors, Frank Herbert, Ken Kesey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and J. A. Jance among them.  There is something about the dark and the damp that encourages creativity. We have a huge community of authors, with critique groups and strong support for each other.

Recently one of my friends from Bellingham, Washington, author of historical fiction J. L. Oakley, introduced me to another friend of her’s, fantasy author Lisa M. Peppan. Lisa’s book, SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds is an intriguing book I am currently reading on my vacation–I can’t put it down!

Here is the BLURB:

SWotRB blurb

Lisa has consented to answer a few questions about her writing process and where her book fits into the genre of fantasy.

CJJ: Tell us a little of your early life and how you began writing:

LMP: Once I got the hang of it, I became a voracious reader.  My favorite still is L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.  It’s his fault, me writing.  I tried my hand at a few short stories but it wasn’t until after reading a poorly written fantasy that I was inspired to write a better story.

CJJ: What are you currently working on?

LMP: While my cover-artist works on a cover for the sequel to “SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds”, I’m working on a third book.  Might be a fourth, possibly a fifth.  Maybe more.  Same alternate universes and most of the same characters, all bundled together as The Geaehn Chronicles.  The Geaehn Chronicles has a Facebook page.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

LMP: SomeWhen started life as 98 handwritten pages.  With a rough idea of the kind of people I wanted my characters to be, I ran astrological birth charts for them and compatibility charts for every possible combination of the four.  While mulling over potential plot complications, I wrote detailed biographies for my main characters, drafted maps, and re-read a selection of mythologies, and, well, once I knew my characters and the world I was sending them to, I wound them up and let them go.  So far, this has worked for two and half books.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre? Why do you write what you do?

LMP: In all the fantasy I’ve read, cab drivers were things that moved protagonists from Point A to Point B.  Three of my four main characters are Seattle cab drivers who recognize that they’ve become involved in a fantasy-novel-type situation; the fourth knows it’s so much more than that.   I drove a taxi cab for 11 years, did a little dispatching, and knew cab drivers were so much more than things (most of them), and wrote the kind of book I’d enjoy reading.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

LMP: In the Spring of 1984, on a particularly slow day as a taxi cab driver, SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds was born.  Over the years, I got many really nice rejection slips.  Then along came a first novel contest on Amazon.  Though I shot myself in the foot for the contest (ask me why and how bad), I was among the 100 best entrants that year.  It also made me aware of that most marvelous purveyor of POD novels, CreateSpace.  When a long-published author friend went Indie, because it appeared to be the direction publishing was going, I took the plunge.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

LMP: Most traditional brick-and-mortar publishers want to see smartly written synopses.  I tried but my best effort (to date) is 23 pages, and Indie doesn’t require one*.  Indie or traditional…?  If you write fantasy that you’ve given a truly fresh spin and you keep getting really nice rejection slips with handwritten notes saying things like, “Great premise” and “Best wishes finding a home for it!!”, go Indie.

*You won’t need the synopsis but you will want a snappy blurb for the back of the book

CJJ: Your experiences with traditional publishing rather closely mirror mine, Lisa!  Thank you for agreeing to be virtually here today, and for the insight into how your creative process works.

Here is a short excerpt of this wonderful book:

excerpt SWotRB

Intrigued?  Lisa’s book is SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds and can be found at these fine stores — just click on the links:

www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

‘Like’ Lisa on Facebook

LMPeppan

Born in Seattle as the eldest of three, Lisa was a curious and adventuresome child who delighted in taking things apart to see just exactly how they worked.  It is a Testament to the Bravery of her parents that they went on to have two more children.

In 1981, after having held a number of jobs in a variety of fields, it was no real surprise to her parents or brothers when Lisa went to work as a cab driver for North End Taxi, a small mom-and-pop cab company in north Seattle.  During the summer of 1984, as a cab driver, after reading what she felt was a poorly written fantasy novel, she said, to no one in particular, “I can do better than that.”

Unplanned early retirement in 1992 gave Lisa time to learn about computers and html coding.  Armed with these new tools, she resumed her family research.  This led to a new hobby–19th century Living History–and from there she caught a glimpse of the scope and diversity of her Aboriginal heritage that spanned North America, north and south of the border.  What her father and his parents worked so very hard to hide, she works diligently to recover so the next generation will know who they are and where they came from; the time for hiding has passed.

When she isn’t reading, writing, researching, or playing in the past, Lisa enjoys quiet moments in the mountains, ferryboat rides on Puget Sound in November, windy days on any beach, hairy chests on men, rare steaks, and purple roses.

Lisa can be contacted at lisapeppan at gmail dot com

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