Tag Archives: nora’s soul

Why Writing?

This is for all of you readers out there who have ever pondered the question Why did you choose writing as your passion? Well, the truth of the matter is – writing chose me. It is just something I have always done, literally from the moment I first picked up a pencil or a crayon or whatever. I have always told stories.

I began writing long before I even knew that was what I was doing – writing stories. I just had these words in my head that demanded to be put on paper so, like the good little girl I was then, I did so. I put them on paper. I first learned to write by following the format in the books I read. I learned the intricacies and the “rules” of writing in school. In fact, it was my junior high school
English teacher who first put a name to what I was doing – writing. She was the one who unraveled the mystery of the process to me and led me to where I am today. It was her encouragement that helped me to keep at it because she was the first person who acknowledged what I did – and validated it. And for a shy girl who didn’t know her place in the world yet, that was everything.

I have always had an active imagination and many were the times that I would watch a movie or a television show, or read a book and think, I could’ve done better than that or I didn’t like the way that ended, this is how I would’ve done it. That assertion fueled my desire to write. Of course, imagining my favorite actors playing the parts in the movie versions of my books helped, too! And then there were the vivid dreams, dreams that just begged to be made into books when I woke up. So of course, I had to do it.

There are many reasons why I am a writer, but the most important one is this: I absolutely love it. I eat, breathe, and dream – literally – writing. It is my passion, my one true love, the constant that has been with me through every awkward moment of youth, every heartbreak, every triumph, every fright, every success. Whatever I have done – or wanted to do – throughout my life, my writing has been right there beside me, reflecting back to me the life I have led and the dreams I have carried through every moment of my life.

What’s your passion?

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul


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Revision or: How Do I Make This Better?

I thought I’d do something a little differently today. I thought I’d show you a little glimpse into the process of revision. Below is the latest of many incantations for the opening of a YA novel I’ve been working on for some time. But, like all of the openings before it, it just lacked the punch I was looking for. After weeks of trying to come up with a better opening, I submitted this portion of the opening to an online contest for the feedback and in so doing, had a breakthrough. I finally came up with something that I think packs the punch I was looking for, as well as conveying the information I wanted to convey in this section. Following this version is the new version. I invite you to read both and tell me what you think. Which one does the better job of conveying the information? Or do I still need to work on it? All suggestions are welcome.

Version #1:

I don’t ask for a lot. Really. In my family, there’s not much to ask for, anyway. I guess you could say that demand out-weighs supply. But even if there was anything to ask for, I wouldn’t. It’s just not me. I’m kind of happy with what I’ve got so why ask for more when I don’t need it? Still, it would be nice if, just once, I could ask for this: To get through the day without someone making fun of my name.
Just once.
No, of course not. That never seems to be the case. Inevitably, someone, some time, is struck by the urge to make fun of my name. And how could they resist? With an unfortunate moniker like Irene Goode, they have a lot to work with.
Yes, that’s right.
That’s me. A born punchline for all the budding comedians of Amory High. Or wanna-be mean girls.
Today, it was Bridget Taylor stepping up to the mike for her shot at school fame. And me. One thing about Bridget: She lacks imagination. So rather than dazzling her classmates with her stunning wit, she fell short with a dull pun. A variation of which she’d been slinging at me since our first encounter in grade school.
“Can you pass this to the Goode girl?”

Version #2:

I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day. Seriously, with a name like Irene Goode, the probability for trouble ranked pretty high, if you know what I mean. Well, I guess Irene’s not too bad – unless you’re like a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Bridget Taylor), who once told me, “We had a cow named Irene once. We ate it for dinner.” Seriously twisted. Even in grade school. Yeah, so tell me something like that and you make an issue out of the first name. But most of the time, it’s not so bad. Not great. But not bad. Oh, no. The problem is the last name.
Do you know how hard it is to live up to a name like that?
I do.

Or how about Version #3, which adds more detail:

I always knew my name would get me into trouble one day. I just didn’t think it would take this long. Maybe I just have a long fuse. Or a short attention span. Something. But, anyway. It finally happened. I snapped. And my name got me in trouble.
Seriously, with a name like Irene Goode, the probability ranked pretty high, if you know what I mean. Well, I guess Irene’s not too bad – unless you’re like a certain someone who shall remain nameless (Bridget Taylor), who once told me, “We had a cow named Irene once. We ate it for dinner.”
But she was one twisted sister. I mean seriously twisted. Even in grade school. Who would name something and then eat it? Or even say they did? That’s a demented thing for anyone to say, but really disturbing coming from a seven-year old.
Yeah, so tell me something like that and you make an issue out of the first name. But most of the time, it’s not so bad. Not great. (Like Maxie or Roxie, my idols!) But not bad. Oh, no. The problem is the last name.
Do you know how hard it is to live up to a name like that?
I do.

So what do you think? Which version do you like better? And do you have any revision tips for other aspiring writers out there?

Margay Leah Justice


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We all secretly crave it, don’t we?


No matter what we do in life, whether it’s to get a problem eater to try peas or to crack the genetic code, deep down we all wish for the same thing: Recognition. For that one person to notice us and in noticing us, to let us know we are doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just a simple “well done” will do. But that simple gesture can go a long way to helping us validate our own self-worth.

If you’re a writer, that validation comes in the form of someone saying, “I loved your book.” There are no sweeter words than those – except, perhaps, “So when’s the next one coming out.” For a writer, this is more important than an award, more important than critical acclaim, for when a reader tells you that they love what you wrote, that is the culmination of your life’s work. Validation. Proof that all those months, if not years, of slaving over your masterpiece were well worth all of the blood, sweat and tears you wrung out of yourself in the process. And although I, for one, write the stories for myself first before deciding if I will share them with the public, secretly I yearn for that recognition. For someone to read what I wrote and say, “Hey, this is good.”

If you’re anything like me, it takes a lot to get from the just-for-me-stage to the ready-for-prime-time stage for two reasons: 1) I have a wicked internal editor who is constantly dogging my steps, driving me to perfection and goading me with the possibility that I might never achieve it because what I am putting down onto paper is drivel; and 2) I also have a fear of recognition. Deep down, I fear that someone will read what I wrote and proclaim it utter crap.

So you see, Recognition is a double-edged sword; it can cut either way.

What are your thoughts on Recognition? I’m curious to know.

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul


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They’re everywhere. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, there are distractions laying in wait for you, ready at a moment’s notice to keep you from doing what you set out to do that day. They come in every shape and form and are so stealthy, so sneaky, that we don’t even realize they’re upon us until it is much too late. And then, of course, we must deal with the distractions before we can get back to the plan for our day.

For me, being a mother and an avid reader and knitter, those distractions can be wide and varied. I could be distracted by receiving a new book in the mail, finding a new pattern book in the store – isn’t there always at least one pattern in there that I have to try RIGHT NOW? – or by any number of things my children might need at any moment. Fortunately, my older daughter is delightfully self-sufficient, but my younger one still needs her mom to help her with things. Or we might need to go to one of her several appointments or meet with a counselor or just run to the store because she needs a certain thing to make her feel better when she’s sick. All of these things, added together, are distractions that keep me from the thing I love to do the most – write.

So the question then remains: How do you deal with the distractions? How do you make sure that they don’t keep you from doing what you want to do or getting back to what you want to do? For me, that is the hard part. Getting back in the groove if I have to leave my writing for a moment. Especially if I’ve been in a groove and that groove is interrupted by a distraction. It is so hard, once I get up from the desk, to sit back down again and get back in the groove.

So tell me, what do you do? Do you have any suggestions for me, any secrets to getting back into that place where I can write once again – until the next distraction, that is. I would love to get your input.

Alas, as I sit here writing this, I am trying hard not to be diverted by yet another distraction – my two cats chasing each other through the house!

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul


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Margay Leah Justice in the Spotlight

Every week we feature a different author on our website, and this week we are featuring Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul

Writing has always been a passion for Margay. Telling stories is in her blood. She started out writing for herself and somewhere along the line came to realize that others might be interested in what she wrote. It took time to convince her to pursue publication and the journey has had it’s ups and downs but culminating in publication of her first book, Nora’s Soul.

Margay Leah Justice lives in historic Massachusetts with her four girls. Two beautiful daughters and two of the feline persuasion. While this single mom battles with MS, she devotes as much time as possible to her daughters but still finds time to live the writing dream that she was always meant for.

To read the first chapter of Nora’s Soul, go to our Featured Author Page.

Margay is also leading a discussion on Facebook  about plagiarism, a topic that interests her greatly, so stop by and tell us what you think: “Whose Idea Is It Anyway?


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At A Loss

As I sit here contemplating what to write for my post today, I am at a loss for words. This is not a good thing for a writer as we make our living on the words we string together in some form of intelligent copy. But there it is. I am at a loss. Why? Because my mind is elsewhere, centered on other things that persistently nag at my brain for attention even though there is nothing I can do about them at this time. The logical part of me knows this, but the maternal part circumvents this knowledge to continue the process of worrying.

What could be so mind consuming? You might wonder. What could prevent a writing fanatic such as myself from being able to concentrate on the process of writing?


I am a mother, first and foremost, and sometimes that role overshadows every other aspect of my life. This is one of those times. You see, my family was just beginning to recover from the emergency surgery performed on one of our cats three weeks ago – a harrowing experience in itself, but more so coupled with the loss of a family cat just two years ago – when we received some potentially devastating news yesterday. Both of my daughters suffer from scoliosis, but my older daughter’s was mild enough that she only needed to wear a back brace for awhile. My younger daughter isn’t so lucky. Yesterday, we met with an orthopedic doctor and he delivered the news that neither of us wanted to hear: Her curvature is so dramatic, it will take surgery to correct it. And for a child who’s been plagued with health concerns, both medical and behavioral, her whole life, the news was crushing. The whole ride home, she kept asking me questions like, “Why does my life suck?’ and “Why does this keep happening to me?”

And I was at a loss.

For words.

For an explanation.

What do you say to a child who has spent her life in and out of hospitals for one reason or another? How do you convince her that her life doesn’t suck, she just has some difficult times to endure? Add to this the fact that her sister is the very picture of health and hardly ever catches a cold, let alone requires surgery, and you have a difficult task, indeed.

People often wonder how we balance life with career and the honest answer is: Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes life takes precedence and other things must be put away temporarily until we can return to them with fresh perspective. Does this mean I will stop writing until after my daughter has her surgery? Of course not. Writing is my saving grace, writing is my therapy, writing defines me as a person beyond my role of mother. I just can’t promise that my conversations will be witty and full of fun, but hopefully, they will be informational and inspiring because the point of this exercise was to show that, even though I started out at a loss for words, I pushed on. I continued to write. I found comfort in the process of putting words to paper. And I thought about something else for a short time along the way.

Writing is wonderful and magical. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes you have to pry them out of you, and sometimes they fail you completely. But they’re always there in the end, helping you through the difficult times and cheering you on through the happy ones. Kind of like children. Isn’t it amazing how similar writing is to motherhood?

So for all of you aspiring writers, for you seasoned writers, remember to write through the difficult times and not just wait for the good ones. You might be surprised at how the words get you through whatever life throws at you. I know I am. Thirty minutes ago, I sat looking at a blank page and thinking, “I’m at a loss.” And just by typing those words out, the rest soon followed. So pick up that pen or put your fingers on that keyboard and just write. You’ll be glad you did. I know I am.

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul, book one in the Dante Chronicles.


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Sometimes I worry that I’m spreading myself too thin. When I actually have time to worry, that is. My life is so full right now that I don’t have the time to get everything done – and yet I keep taking on more. Why? Is this some compulsion I have to see how far I can stretch myself before I finally snap? And how am I to balance it all?

Balance is an elusive concept that reappears in my life upon occasion. Usually when I am too busy to figure out how to incorporate it into my life. Or when it appears in the comment section of a blog post when a reader asks, “How do you balance your writing career with your life?” Good question. Does anyone know the answer?

Even in the best of circumstances, balance can be a tricky concept whether you’re a mother who’s just reentered the workforce, a father who must put in overtime in order to provide a decent living for your family, or a single parent who has to do it all for your family. But when you add health issues to the mix, the situation becomes even dicier.

This is the predicament I currently find myself in. A single parent trying to do everything for my children on my own waylaid by potentially devastating health issues for myself and one of my daughters. Dealing with either of these diagnoses separately would be difficult enough, but coupled together they are more challenging. Perhaps I should explain. In early Spring of 2002, after a maddening round of tests and doctors’ visits, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A couple of months later, my younger daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a chronic stomach problem; in May of 2008, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in addition to the bipolar disorder.

With these revelations came a new set of challenges, namely, how to balance my daughter’s medical needs with my own. For me, the first step in that process was acceptance – of the diagnoses, the limitations and restrictions entailed in them, and the acknowledgement that the life I’d dreamed of for my daughter was going to take a different course to fruition. The second step was understanding. To that end, being the research nut that I am, I began to read whatever I could on my condition and my daughter’s – books, magazine articles, testimonials. Information is the key to busting myths and understanding the changes that your life is about to take. What does this have to do with balance?

Everything. Information and understanding are the keys to learning how to balance responsibilities in your life. Sure, I still tend to push myself physically on days when I feel good and think I can still handle things the way I did before I became ill. And when I find myself flat on my back and staring up at the ceiling, I am reminded that I can’t do everything like I used to, that I have limitations and need to adhere to them. When I do, I achieve balance in my life. So how do I do it? I say “No.” This was a hard skill to learn for someone who is a people pleaser and likes to say “yes” to everything, but I had to do it. for my sake and my daughters’ – we are all bonded by blood and commitment, after all, and when I don’t take care of my own needs, I can’t take care of theirs. So I learned to say “no” and to respect my limitations as opposed to testing them. What do you do to maintain balance in your life?

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul. You can visit her at http://margayleahjustice.com


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A Marketing Neophyte Meets the World (Wide Web, That Is)


I have a confession to make: I am a marketing neophyte. I have no idea what I’m doing; I’m just making it up as I go along. Sales pitch? What is that? Self-promotion? Somebody hold my hand or better yet, do it for me. I don’t know how to self-promote. I certainly don’t know how to market a book. In fact, my knowledge of marketing could get lost on a pinhead. I am a complete and utter novice here. Okay, end of confession.

You might be wondering why I would make such a confession. Simple. Because this is the position that many authors find themselves in with the publication of their first book, especially if a small press publishes them. While small presses are a wonderful way for an aspiring author to break into the field, they often require the new author to contribute more of their time to their marketing campaign than a larger house might. But if you are a neophyte like me, this can present quite a challenge. How do you market yourself? Where do you start?

I started with the world wide web. The Internet takes the concept of Word of Mouth and amplifies it to ridiculous proportions. It broadens your scope from the tiny patch of earth you call home to the vast landscape of the world. Whenever you post something on the web, be it a blog, Myspace, or even Twitter, your words are traveling into the four corners of the world at the touch of a button. Literally. You are reaching a far greater number of people, in a shorter amount of time, than you possibly could if you took the trip yourself.

The concept is staggering, but the process doesn’t have to be. If you find yourself overwhelmed like I did in the beginning, start out small and expand upon it. Think of it like a stone cast into a pond. The initial contact with water is you and your book; you make this by casting yourself out there via your own blog. The next ripple is you finding a place to contribute a guest post. The next is you finding another place to promote your work and so on, until you have reached out across that pond to touch every possible shore within reach. It is a never-ending process, but it can be a very fulfilling one.

To get you started, I will share with you some of the places I have visited so far, which have proved welcoming of new authors. They are:

The Romance Junkies – http://www.romancejunkies.com/rjblog/
Novel Thoughts and Book Talk – http://novelthoughts.wordpress.com/
Novel Sisterhood – http://novelsisterhood.blogspot.com/
The Bookworm – http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/
Until we meet again, keep writing!

Margay Leah Justice, author of Nora’s Soul, now available on Amazon.com http://margayleahjustice.com


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From Conception to Birth, Or One Book’s Journey to Publication

Ah, the first blush of romance. The first time you see the idea, sitting there in the corner of your mind, trying to get your attention in that inconspicuous manner these ideas sometimes adopt. You look away, convinced that there is no way this idea could possibly go anywhere. It’s just a fluke, a fling. Surely, you’ll forget it by morning. But when you look back, the idea is still there, sitting in the corner, flirting with you. So what’s a harmless little flirtation? You approach the idea cautiously, in a manner you hope is suave and sophisticated, but as you get closer, your excitement rises. Your heart begins to race. You lick your lips in anticipation. It’s even more exciting up close. So you flirt with it, spend the night with it, take it home with you. In the morning, you’re surprised that it’s still with you. After two months, you begin to believe this idea has a future. So you cultivate it, give up sleep for it, nurture it as it grows within you. Soon, what began as a nugget of an idea in your mind blossoms into a full-blown creature. It grows within you, like a fetus in a womb, becoming bigger by the month, more substantial. You can almost feel it move within you; you carry it everywhere, wherever you go, it’s there with you. All of your energy is devoted to it.

After a suitable gestation period, your little nugget of an idea, which you have affectionately begun to call “the book” while you search for the right title, is ready to make its appearance. Your months of labor are about to pay off as you prepare to deliver your book into the capable hands of the publisher who will introduce it to the world. But wait, his assistant has to help you clean it up a bit first and you are struck by the niggling thought, What if my baby’s ugly? What if I put this out there and no one likes it? But with the reassurances of your publisher, you clean the book up and send it back, maybe with a prayer or two, and you wait. Now it’s time for your baby to prove its worth.

As you can tell from my whimsical tale above, writing and publishing, to me, often mimic conception and birth. The stages of both are remarkably similar. There is the courtship period when you are first introduced to the idea that will one day take over your life. Followed by the get-to-know you period during which you decide whether or not the idea has longevity and you want to commit to it. Once you make that commitment, there is the gestation period – I think you can guess what happens here. The idea grows and grows, taking on a life of its own, convincing you that you are mad, suffering from a hormonal imbalance, or both. But in the end, it’s worth it because you deliver a rollicking, three hundred page epic that someone is bound to love – and not because they’re related to you.

So I guess you could say that Nora’s Soul is the first of my literary babies. She is almost two months old now, having made her debut in November, and growing stronger every day. Bringing her to the attention of the public is similar to the care and nurturing of an infant, requiring constant vigilance. Yet the pay off is that people are noticing her, some are cooing over her, and others even want to take her home with them. She may just be crawling now, but soon she will gain her legs and walk on her own – and I will sit back in amazement like any proud mother, thinking, Wow, I can’t believe I created that! And in the grand tradition of mothers everywhere, I will want to create another one, forgetting all of the pains and labor involved in the process. Keep your eyes open for the debut of Nora’s brother, Dante. Thank you for riding along with me on this whimsical journey into my take on writing. I hope you enjoyed the trip as much as I did.

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul, from Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Nora’s Soul is currently available on Amazon.com. To read more about Margay and her writing, visit http://margayleahjustice.com.

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The Blank Page

I am a blank page. I am only eight and a half inches wide, eleven inches long. To most people, I am unprepossessing, boring, blank. But to you, I am the most intimidating opponent you will ever face. Why, you might ask. Because you are a writer and a blank page is the most fearsome enemy you will ever face in your journey along the creative road.

But I can be conquered. You just have to want to try. You just have to face the fear. Take the writer who is filling up this page at this very moment. The writer had no idea what to write when she first sat down at the keyboard. Did she let that stop her? No. She took the very idea of the blank page syndrome and turned it into something to talk about. You can, too. The key to doing so is quite simple, really.

Just write.

It doesn’t matter what you write, at first. Just sit down, place your fingers over the keys and write. So what if Shakespeare’s masterpiece doesn’t flow from your fingers on the first pass, or even the second? Do you think he only wrote one draft and was done? Not likely. Neither should you. So sit down and write. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as words flow onto the page; you can always go back and edit later. That’s the beauty of it all. Once the words are there, you can go back and play with them. Rearrange them on the page. Make them dance across the white space that was once blank. You see, editing is not your enemy, either – but that’s another story.

So remember, all of you writers out there, established or emerging, it’s you against the blank page.

Don’t let the blank page win. Write.

Margay Leah Justice is the author of Nora’s Soul, available now on Amazon.com. You can read more about her at http://margayleahjustice.com where she fights a daily about against the blank page.

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