Hey Matt! Nice thread. Wow, it's cool to see so many people using Cubase - I thought I was a minority! So, yes, I use Cubase 6.5. Whatever DAW you're most efficient in/comfortable with should be your go-to for cinematic (or any) music.
Since I'm a piano player, it's essential for me to have a midi controller with at least a few octaves so I can play the melodies as they come to me. It's also a nice feeling to map expression and modulation data to knobs/wheels as opposed to drawing in automation. It just feels better to record myself wheel moving - I can usually get a more realistic feel (which is nice considering everything is quantized samples).
My libraries of choice lately are LASS, EWQL Symphonic Orchestra, Drums of War, Stylus RMX, and Camel Audio's Alchemy. Man, Alchemy is THE synth - I can't get enough. Can't remember the last track I did that didn't use it for something!
Alas, the mixing of FX and processors like reverb and compression is my weak point (shh, don't tell anyone). I have several texts on mixing, but you're right - there aren't any that are specific to orchestral or epic music. Someone really ought to write one! I typically mix the day after composing, just to give my brain a new perspective. If I work on something too much I start to lose my sense of it as a whole. But just use your ears, and get advice from other composers. Maybe even have an example song that you think sounds really good, and try to emulate the way it sounds by trial and error.
John Williams, enough said
Ok, other noteworthy composers that I enjoy: Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Koji Kondo, Nobuo Uematsu, Tangerine Dream
Hmm, my process. Well, I usually just sit and think of melodies. Then, figure out what instrument would best emphasize the feel I want, and then it just evolves from there. Sometimes I'll start composing with a style in mind, but often not. It's a pretty organic thing - what inspires you?
Whew! That was a mouthful. I'm waiting for a couple of my cinematic tracks to be approved. It will be nice to have some more