writing process

Kingdom City author on writing

Recently, we saw the exciting cover reveal of KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT — the gripping sequel to the dystopian thriller KINGDOM CITY: RESURRECTION. Don’t you love getting lost in a good series? Don’t you wonder how authors keep us wanting more — book after book? Today we talk with author Ben Ireland and celebrate the release of the second in his series. Be sure to enter the awesome giveaway, too!

First, about REVOLT . . .


If you missed the first in the sequel, check it out: KINGDOM CITY: RESURRECTION.


Now, let’s hear from Ben about his writing process:

What is your preferred writing genre?

I lean towards fantasy, especially urban fantasy. I get a rush when someone isn’t only smart enough to solve their problems, but they can also solve them with fire. Lots and lots of magically invoked fire.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved creating. Probably the worst thing that happened to me is when I took a creative writing class in college. The professor told me that my story was the best thing he’d read “in a long time.” I’ve been spiraling since then. That story ended up being a scene of Kissed a Snake, in Xchyler’s A Dash of Madness short story anthology.

Where do you actually write? Do you write on a schedule?

We recently moved and I managed to get an office in the new house. It’s actually a storage closet. But it has a map of Kingdom City on the wall and Slifer the Sky Dragon above my desk, so that’s all I need.

I don’t have a specific time to write. I’m still on the ‘wait until the kids fall to sleep and write until I fall to sleep’ schedule.

What is your writing drive? What keeps you going when writing gets difficult?

My brain is full of story ideas and it hurts when I don’t let them out. Writing isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion.

What is your advice to writers?

Figure out who to listen to and who to ignore. If you don’t have people in your life who challenge your creative work, then you’re handicapping yourself. Peter Jackson and George Lucas stopped listening to people that challenged them, and the result is the Hobbit movies and Star Wars episode 1-3. No matter how successful you get, listen to your trusted critics.

What’s up next for you?

Kingdom City part3. Working title is Retribution. The original working title was Redemption, but that sounded way too optimistic for Kingdom City.  


Bookminder author on writing

Today we’re talking about writing with author M.K. Wiseman — whose novel BOOKMINDER is fresh off the press. So many readers want to know about the writing process, which is different for every author. I love hearing from authors who not only build a captivating story but also include elements of magic and fantasy. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway — 3 $20 B&N gift cards! Before we get to the Q&A, here’s a bit about the book:


Let’s hear from the author about her writing process.

How did you come up with the concept of your story?

In 2004 I had a very vivid dream that, afterward, wouldn’t leave me alone. Said dream basically detailed out one scene from the story, something so different and captivating for me that it stuck. Now, it must be noted that I was not writing at that time, nor did I intend to write in any professional capacity. But as this one nugget of an idea would not let me be, I started to form a story around it – Why were these people doing what they were doing? Who were they?

I think that working in the Preservation Dept of the campus library system had bled into my subconscious and that is where the magick system that rules The Bookminder developed.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

That was a sort of slow shift for me. I mean, I started writing pieces of significant length in 2004 but really did so without any specific “I want to be a writer” aim. I was just compelled to try it out, I suppose. At that time, what I really wanted to be (and still do!) was/is an animator. But both are storytellers so it’s not that big a leap. I think I finally knew what I wanted when it came clear to me that my work is actually publishable. Then I found that I had a burning desire to keep going with it, wanting to add to libraries rather than just “worship” them as a reader.

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

Before you read this answer, remember this question cites unlimited resources. . . My answer presumes unlimited patience from my family, as well. That said, there are a handful of places that I’ve been that would be really interesting places to write and it’d be lovely to have access to each as the impulse takes me. Ideally, I’d like to take a bit of time and write from Santa Fe, NM, up where even the heady smell of books pales in comparison to the piñon-sweet air. I’d like some time in Boston by the gas light district. I’d like to try to write an entire novel while sailing from Point A to Point B . . . I think keeping things fresh and adventurous is my ideal.

Where do you actually write? Do you write on a schedule?

I actually spend a lot of my writing time in a big, orange, overstuffed armchair. Or, if I need a little more ‘action’ around me, I head off to a coffee shop to immerse myself in a slice of Life. As for any sort of schedule, I don’t have set hours or word counts or anything—that tends to mess with my muse’s office hours. Sometimes there are publishing deadlines to keep but that’s as tangibly schedule-y as I get.

What is your writing drive? The power that keeps you going when your writing gets difficult?

Deadlines. 🙂 More seriously, though, early on I feared that I’d only ever have One Good Idea. I now have a pile of “Work in Progress” manuscripts sitting on my hard drive and they cover a host of different genres and intended audiences. It is now almost impossible for me to hit a wall because of the breadth of those projects. So if I bump up against something in a project that seems unsolvable, I take a step back and work on something else until I lose my frustration at the first roadblock. I do admit that it takes some discipline to keep from bouncing aimlessly between projects. So my power is persistence, even if it involves a writing detour.

How does writing impact other parts of your life?

I tend to get a little lost in my worlds. My work follows me home because it lives there. That’s been a bit of an adjustment, defining borders of when and when not my brain can go to work. If I allowed it, I’d probably just work continuously without sleeping, eating, and whatnot, just because I have the ideas. I have awoken in the middle of the night and hastily hid myself in another room to type out a quick story outline before it flees into that sleepy realm of forgotten ideas.



It takes a village

My children will probably never have a traditional upbringing: growing up in the same house, markers of their growth lining the closet door, surrounded by familiar neighborhood kids, rooting for the same alma mater kinder to senior. Our first two boys were born in Massachusetts. Our littlest, in Indiana. We called Texas home for two years and are now living in upstate New York. More than likely, we’ll be moving again in the near future. Are we giving them an unstable home life or character-shaping adventures?

When I was fifteen, my parents moved me from my childhood home. I was so devastated, I wouldn’t help Mom pack. Not even my bedroom. And I wasn’t even changing schools. My grief turned to gratitude soon after we settled into our beautiful lake home. Years later, my parents moved again. This time, I wasn’t living at home but at college. Still, it was bittersweet. But when a friend made the comment that it must be hard to leave our lake home, my brother replied: “Home isn’t a place. It’s where your family is.”

Today, my family of five shares a home with my parents who live there part-time, half the year. It’s not a fancy house, nor is it lakeside. But, right now, it’s home. We share this house not due to financial strain or mid-life crises, but because it makes sense for us. Not only does it make sense, it’s been an absolute blessing. My children are growing up directly alongside one set of grandparents, and just a day-trip away from their cousins and another set of grandparents. They are surrounded by family. They are surrounded by love. This is obvious. The less obvious benefits have been revealed over time.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. My boys’ lives have become so rich in experiences, moving and traveling across the country. And now, living with my parents, their lives are enriched in another way. My mother brought them to the theater when I feared they might disrupt the onstage drama. My father talks physics and math-y stuff with my oldest while I’m allergic to numbers. My brother — who lives within driving distance — has introduced role-playing games to all the boys, gets them to make their own board games, and creates art with them. These are minor examples. The list goes on…

Our other “home” is at the beach, where my boys learn from their Nunu about ocean safety and how to be neighborly. They talk about books with their grammy and are lovingly folded into the glorious chaos of their cousins’ home as if they were more-the-merrier siblings within the eight-person-family.

No, my boys won’t have the traditional one-home-forever upbringing. But what they have is pretty great. Maybe better. Our boys will grow to be better, smarter, stronger, happier, and more confident — because they have a vast collection of love and experiences shaping who they are.

The end result is always better when you have a team behind you. Isn’t it?

Like with, say, BOOKS!

Last night at a book club discussion, I was asked the question: “How is it different working with a publisher versus self-publishing?” I get this question a lot.

When I self-published Catcher’s Keeper, I agonized over my story in solitude. Sure, I hired a myriad of editors, a cover designer, a formatter. I enlisted the help of many an author friend. I networked online and at writing conferences. I had a huge amount of support from family and friends. I certainly wasn’t alone, per se. But when it came down to it, it was up to me and me only to make it great. To make it flawless. Was it ready to be published when I finally uploaded it and — egads — people started ordering it? Was it as good as it could be? Aghhh! I hope so.

When I signed with Xchyer Publishing for FORTE, I couldn’t appreciate the expertise they would bring. I was hesitant. I’d been through the process. I’d learned so much. I’d self-published successfully and my attitude was: “What could you do for me that I couldn’t do myself?”

Well, let me tell you. I humbly stand corrected.

My team at Xchyler Publishing (my X-team) has scrutinized every single word of each line, each chapter. I had a team of five talented individuals who had a vested interest in making my manuscript the best it could possibly be, which sometimes meant rewriting scenes multiple times, writing lengthy character sketches and/or timelines that would never be included directly in the story, and examining dialogue and relationships to convey realistic characters. I was far from alone. Not only that, I was boosted up.

Granted, there were times when I’d see track-changes comment from my editor: “Not enough. Falls flat. Needs more tension.” I’d grunt at my screen in frustration, go through a short-lived cycle of denial/anger before coming to accept it and rework the scene. At times it would take hours. At times I’d have to throw the whole thing out and start anew. At times I had to add entire chapters to show what I thought was already pretty clear. In the end, the scene was always better.

Not only that, but we worked together to come up with a new title, a stunning cover, and a marketing plan. And, to my utmost delight, they took care of the critical and notoriously hard-to-write back-cover blurb. (I’d rather write an entire book than a back-cover blurb!)

LOCK 12 - original cover

Original cover and former title of FORTE


New FORTE cover design from Xchyler Publishing


Just yesterday, I sent what I was told had to be “absolutely the last go-around” version, and I’m thrilled with it. I have to say, the end result is so worth the effort. It’s so much better than it had been when I thought it was done. Frankly, I cringe to think of publishing the book without their input.

My “baby” launches July 25, 2015. It takes a village to launch a book. So many people have made FORTE rich in so many ways — I’m brimming with gratitude.   The best part? My boys can’t wait to read it. And the adventures continue…

Retreat into Chaos

This past weekend, I not only attended my first-ever writers’ retreat, I hosted it. “Sandy Feet Writers’ Retreat” took place at our new house on Salisbury Beach, where four writer friends joined me.

A month or so prior, I sent out an “itinerary” for the weekend, in which long stretches of writing time were mixed with a dinner out, yoga on the beach, and sunrise meditation. It seemed unrealistic and implausible to expect a group of five women in a small-ish house to sit quietly and write all day long, so I wanted to offer activities to reset our minds, nourish our spirits, and soak in the coastline. Also, part of me felt it wasn’t enough to simply provide the venue. I wanted to make it special.

It soon became clear, however, that all this planning was unnecessary. When I came downstairs on Saturday morning, two of the four were already hard at work on their computers. To my delight, coffee was made, and a fruit plate complimented the homemade blueberry bread on the kitchen island.

“Ooo, this is good,” I thought. “Forget the sunrise meditation.” (It was well past sunrise anyway. There were some night owls in the group…wine-drinking night owls.)

A steaming mug in my hands, I opened my laptop and started in. The day before, I’d imagined I would hole up in my room, where a writing desk juxtaposed our upstairs balcony–the view from here even more glorious than from the main level. Instead, I planted myself where my laptop had been waiting for me, on the dining table, where I usually check my email during our mini vacations to the house.

I was soon lost in my story, and time became an abstract phenomenon.

The remaining two writers awakened much in the same manner as I, and soon all five of us dotted the living area at different “stations,” and the day opened into an sea of creativity. No radio. No television. No media at all. The only sound besides the gentle roar of the ocean was the clicking of computer keys. The limited conversation was hushed, and revolved around food: “I’m making myself a sandwich. Want one?” (Though in truth we were all so nourished by practicing our craft, we barely ate.) Later in the afternoon, three of us walked the beach—the only real break from writing all day—and wasted no time in getting back to it upon return. Our 8:30 dinner reservation came too soon; I’m sure we could’ve kept going, contenting ourselves with the five separate tubs of hummus in the fridge. (I’ll have to plan the pot luck thing better next year.)

to Seaglass

Just before heading to dinner.

At times, the miracle of what was happening struck me, as I took a break from my work to observe—the collective productivity more inspiring than the setting. At one point, Anika joked that, judging from the excessive clicking, Betsy and I were on impressive writing streaks. This kept her going. And when I felt stuck with my story, instead of shutting the screen and doing laundry (which I’d do at home), I forced myself to get through it. Maybe taking a moment on the deck to work out the next scene. While some of us walked the beach, others opted to stay so as not to lose their momentum. I was proud of our little group. But I shouldn’t have been surprised.

A common attribute of all writers, I think, is the ability to focus. Sure, the weekend was set up for this. We all planned to focus on our projects. But if there had been hidden cameras in the house, the footage would make for a remarkable display of perseverance (albeit boring to watch, perhaps).

I honed my skill to focus years ago. In my mid-twenties, I started a web design company with a friend. In the early days, our office was his second-floor Somerville apartment. In a time before Wifi, we used one phone line for Internet, fax, and phone (the latter only when our dinosaur cell devices were out of charge). Our first client was Johnson & Johnson, and we conducted conference calls on the living room floor via the fax/phone on speaker. It was ridiculous and thrilling. Things moved extremely fast. I remember one day in particular, sweltering in record humidity and insufficient AC, I was on deadline. Our client expected a proposal for a new website design by end of day. For whatever reason, I crafted this document while sitting on a crate—my laptop propped on a box which contained a yet-to-be-opened printer/copier. Hours passed and my ass turned into a waffle. We won the project.

Weeks later, we moved into office space. We converted the third floor of a Summer Street warehouse in Boston, just past the sandy construction of the never-ending Big Dig. In favor of the open concept office space that had just become popular, our desks were lined in rows with no dividers. Our “conference rooms” were sectioned off with floor-to-ceiling fabric (“like a sail,” my partner had said wistfully as he described his design). This meant that my client calls could be heard by anyone within earshot (and I have a tendency to project). There was no privacy. On more than one occasion, some of us celebrated a launch in one corner while others toiled late hours to fix the online glitch-du-jour in another.

I developed a keen ability to tune things out. At times, my colleagues would have to stand directly in front of my desk, calling my name multiple times, before I answered. Without that extreme focus, though, there would be no way I’d be able to get my job done.

(I’m happy to say, that job is long done! )


Photo by Betsy Devany Macleod

On Sunday morning at Sandy Feet, I noticed the five of us had adopted not only our favorite writing spots, but also a variety of writing uniforms—and this was the one and only use for yoga pants all weekend. (Except Betsy, who even in her pajamas looked like something out of a magazine—and I still refuse to believe she has grandchildren).

Later that day, as we all felt the weekend pulling away from us, Michelle shared how happy she was with the progress she’d made. “When I get home, it will be tempting to use the excuse for not writing because I don’t have the ocean. But that’s crazy. As much as I love it here, I don’t need the ocean to write.”

It’s true. None of us need the ocean to write. None of us even need a dedicated place to create our stories. I love the idea of an office with a quaint writing desk, flanked with bookshelves and framed, inspirational quotes. But my reality is a constant juggle of household tasks, negotiating sticky spots on the counter, and bargaining with my kids for computer Minecraft time. I’m used to working in the midst of chaos. (Remember the bedlam that surrounded my book launch?) Secretly, I think I thrive on chaos. I wonder if I would be nearly as productive if I had all day long in a quiet house, every day, to write. Even if it was on the ocean.

Although, when I opened my story last night, taking advantage of a short pause within my mommy duties, it all came back. Seeing my characters’ names on the screen with a glimpse at my last scene-in-progress—something magical happened. I could almost hear the rolling waves. I could almost feel the salty wind snapping my hair. I could almost smell the foamy tide, the curls of kelp along the beach. I could almost feel the tiny shells that stuck between my toes…

…the sand at my feet.

sandy feet

Photo by Betsy Devany Macleod