Monday musing: Inspiration from nature

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Many artists found inspiration in the natural world: Beethoven, Tom Thomson, Bedrich Smetana, Jean Sibelius, the list goes on. And writers do, to.

I am one, and I thought I’d share some pictures with you from a whitewater canoe trip down the Dumoine River I took a couple of years ago, along with my younger son, Super Nicolas.

The Dumoine runs more or less directly south from western Quebec into the Ottawa River, and was part of the fur-trading route that opened up North America for Europeans. It has a number of rapids, which required portaging — until the invention of memory-polymer canoes that could flex and spring back into shape, which made it possible, and fun, to run the rapids.

It’s an inspiring landscape, evoking thoughts not only of the early days of European exploration of North America and the founding of Canada, but also of far older civilizations (Algonquin, Ojibwa, etc.), and of the deep power of the Earth itself. 

This trip gave me an idea for a short story called Teri and the River, which I plan—one day, probably far in the future—to incorporate into novel called Dark Clouds.

Running the rapids, then eddying out into a calm spot, helped me solidify the concept of each river having a personality, which also nicely fits into the cosmology of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

A typical “Canadian sunset” picture.
I find these pictures spark ideas for stories and essays. What about you? Can you attach a story, or at least the beginning of a story to any of these pictures? Share in the Comments section if you can.
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Thursday teaser: Flame Road

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Scorch series book 5

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

CHAPTER ONE

Woman

Panic fluttered at the edges of the woman’s mind. How did she get here?

Nothing would come.

She simply was, and it all hurt.

Throbbing pain radiated from her forehead as she drew her knees up to lie on her side. She blinked as bright light filtering through pine boughs stung her eyes. She raised a heavy white arm. Whose arm was it? She had no idea.

She touched the sore spot on her head. A shock of pain thundered through her skull, down her neck, vibrating through her entire body, clenching her stomach.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the pain pass.

Where was she?

The woman rolled onto her knees and wet brown leaves squished beneath her. Her gaze fell to hands riddled with scratches and scrapes and traveled up her arms to her chest. She wore a long-sleeved, ripped white top, mottled with dirt and dried blood, probably from the wound on her head. A jagged, sharp rock marked with an oily dark stain of blood lay directly in front of her.

She must have fallen and hit her head.

The insight was a clue to what was going on. She could solve this mystery. Hope gave her the energy to push herself up, clinging to a nearby sapling. She rose to stand, her pulse pounding as her head swam.

Alone with amnesia in the middle of a forest.

Another insight, but this one brought fresh terror. She looked down and around her, searching for more clues.

The shirt was actually a dress. The garment’s ankle-length skirt was pockmarked with small tears, as if she’d run through the woods, the loose material catching and ripping on underbrush. Towering trees surrounding her were almost bare: late fall.

The woman looked down at her body again, but no spark of recognition ignited as she examined the full breasts and wide hips straining her ill-fitting dress. She turned her head, feeling stinging at the crown of it.

Raising her hand, the woman gently probed shorn hair to find a large scab, tender but healing. She traced the lines of it on the back of her head. Some kind of symbol.

Her head had recently been shaved and something carved into her scalp.

Why?

The woman looked around the forest, scanning the trees, hearing birds and the scuffling of small creatures in the leaves. The sound of bubbling water filtered through the air.

She was thirsty. Very thirsty.

The woman’s legs quivered, and placing weight on her left ankle made her wince. She pulled up the skirt and looked down at the milky skin of her legs, slashed with scratches that must’ve happened as she ran through the woods.

Sturdy hiking boots covered her feet. They didn’t make sense with the dress.

None of it made sense.

Thirst drove her forward. She headed toward the sound of the water, leaning on trees to support her wobbly steps.

Glimmers of light twinkled on a river glimpsed through the trees. She hurried forward and broke from the forest onto a pebbly shore. Water rushed over colored pebbles under a blue sky. She stumbled to the stream’s edge, dropping to her knees and scooping the crystal clear liquid up in her hands.

It might not be safe to drink. She should boil it first.

How did she know that? No clue.

But she didn’t have the luxury of worrying about parasites.

She drank deeply, bringing the cold water to her parched mouth until it filled her stomach. She was hungry, but hunger was nothing compared to the thirst and pain in her head.

The woman pushed the sleeves of the dress up and splashed to her elbows, rinsing away the dirt and blood. She washed her face and unknown scratches stung. Dipping the hem of her skirt into the water, she gently dabbed at the wound on her forehead, hissing between her teeth at the sharp pain.

She must’ve been running from something or someone. Five dark spots marked where someone had grabbed her forearm.

She unbuttoned the dress. Large breasts were cradled in a matronly bra. She pulled the garment aside and examined the full, creamy white round with its pink nipple. Why didn’t she recognize her own body?

She lifted her skirt, exposing pale, fleshy thighs. Clearly, she had not spent much time in the sun but it felt good now, warming her as the chill water refreshed her.

The woman couldn’t see through the fog of lost memory to the clear peaks of who she was and how she got to this place, but the information existed somewhere in her mind, as solid and real as a mountain range hidden in cloud.

She scooped up another handful of sweet water, but a low growl jerked her attention up.

On the other side of the shallow river, less than twenty yards away, stood a gray wolf. Lean, long-legged, shaggy and rough, standing as tall as the woman’s waist, the predator’s black lip lifted above razor teeth. Menace emanated from its chest.

Fear and adrenaline surged through her and froze the woman as cold as the crystal-clear water rushing over the bright stones.

The wolf’s head lowered and its ruff raised. The animal stalked toward her, entering the water.

She had fled from something terrible, and now she was about to die.

About Flame Road

From award-winning, bestselling authors whose writing Kirkus Reviews calls “persistently riveting,” comes the Scorch Series, romantic action adventure for fans of romance thrillers, apocalyptic and family romance sagas.

The Scorch Flu pandemic sweeps through Colorado, forcing commitment-phobic firefighter and sports adrenaline junkie Cosimo “Cash” Luciano to begin hiking his way through the wilderness toward his family’s survival compound in Idaho, the Haven.

A traumatized woman awakens in the woods with no idea who she is or how she got there, and no way to survive. Lost and vulnerable, she is easy prey until Cash and his giant bear dog, Tiny, offer her protection . . . and a nickname, Sunshine.

Together, they must forge a way through the wilderness and unravel the mystery of who she is, and why a band of deadly skinheads are relentlessly hunting her.

Can Cash and Sunshine make it through the peril that pursues them and find a way to each other’s hearts?

About the authors

Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling Sydney Rye Series, which feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery!

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime series featuring Maui police detective Lei Texeira, the Paradise Crime series featuring security specialist Sophie Ang, the Michaels Family Romance series, and the new Scorch Series romantic thrillers with Emily Kimelman.

Visit her:

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Thursday teaser: Honor Among Thieves

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The newest Dewey Webb Historical Mystery is now out!

By Renée Pawlish

As I sat at my table at a restaurant on Grant Street, I wasn’t thinking about murder. My mind had been on how I was going to pay the stack of bills piled on my office desk. I hadn’t had a lot of work in the last couple of months, and money was tight. It had been wearing on me, and Clara and I had even had an argument about it this morning.

I crushed out my cigarette in an ashtray and started toward the cashier near the restaurant entrance. That’s when I saw a tall man rise from a table near the door. He was vaguely familiar. Then he lit a match by flicking the tip of it off his thumbnail, and I remembered him. Roy Jefferson.

We’d been in the same outfit in the war, in Germany, but once we’d come back stateside, I hadn’t seen him again. I recalled that he was arrogant and a hardhead, quick to anger, and always pushing his superiors. But in the end, he got the job done. He lit his cigarette, blew out the match, and tossed it into an ashtray. As I neared the register, he glanced up and saw me.

“Dewey Webb?” he asked, his brow furrowed.

I nodded. “Roy Jefferson.”

“That’s right.”

He offered his hand. His grip was firm, and he looked dapper in a well-tailored blue pinstripe suit, but his brown eyes were guarded.

“I didn’t know you lived in Denver,” I said.

“I moved here a while back. What’re you doing?”

I pulled some ones from my wallet and handed them to the cashier. “I’m a private detective.”

“No kidding?” He nodded appreciatively. “You were a good guy in the war, and you could handle situations and people. I can see how you’d be a good investigator.”

“It’s a living.”

He waited, and after I’d paid my bill, he paid his, and we walked outside. It was a chilly November Monday, and I was between jobs and didn’t have anywhere to be. He pulled his fedora down over his brown hair.

“It’s been a while since the war,” he said as he smoked.

That was a topic I didn’t want to discuss. I motioned toward Twelfth Avenue. “I’m parked over there.”

“I’ll walk with you, if that’s okay.” He hesitated, then glanced around nervously. “There’s something I’d like to talk to you about. You being a private eye.”

I gave him the slightest of once-overs, suddenly wondering if our chance encounter wasn’t by chance at all. “All right, why don’t you come to my office and we can talk.”

He stared across the street, bit his lip, then shook his head. “I’ve got to get back to work. How about you come over to my place tonight, say five o’clock?”

I gave him a hard look. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. It’s just … something I need from you, okay?” He pulled an envelope from his pocket. “What’s your retainer?”

I named my daily fee.

“Good.” He held out the envelope. “That should more than cover it. Come over and hear what I have to say. If you don’t want to help, the money’s yours just for your trouble.”

His eyes darted around nervously. I contemplated him for a moment, then took the envelope and opened it. The money was enough to pay me for a week. I looked at him.

“Are you up to something illegal?” I finally asked.

He held up a hand. “Not at all. Hey, you were a solid guy during the war, and I think you’ll want to hear this deal.” He glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to go. Tonight. Five o’clock. The address is on the envelope.” With that, he spun around and hurried down the street. He turned the corner and was gone.

About Honor Among Thieves

It’s 1949, and Denver private investigator Dewey Webb isn’t thinking about murder, he’s pondering the stack of bills he can’t pay. Then he runs into an old army acquaintance, Roy Jefferson, who is well-dressed, flashing cash, and wanting Dewey’s help. Dewey has his suspicions, however, Roy pays him substantially just to meet him later and hear his problem. Dewey agrees, but before they can talk, Roy dies, an apparent suicide. But is that the case?

Since Dewey has taken Roy’s money, he feels honor-bound to look into Roy’s death. What Dewey discovers leads him to believe someone from Roy’s sordid past may have murdered him. And that same someone may now be after Dewey as well. As Dewey works to find a possible killer, he’s forced to question many things, including his own sense of honor.

Honor Among Thieves is a hard-boiled, historical mystery that’s great for fans who love a traditional detective crime story with a noir flavor, but without a lot of sex or swearing.

Dewey Webb first appeared in the Reed Ferguson mystery, Back Story. Pick up a copy of to find out more about this classic hard-boiled detective.

About the author

Renée Pawlish is the award-winning author of the bestselling Reed Ferguson mystery series, horror bestseller Nephilim Genesis of Evil, The Noah Winters YA Adventure series, middle-grade historical novel This War We’re In, Take Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a nonfiction account of a haunted house investigation.

Renée has been called “a promising new voice to the comic murder mystery genre” and “a powerful storyteller.” Nephilim Genesis of Evil has been compared to Stephen King and Frank Peretti.

Renée was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado.

Find more about Renée and her books on

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Monday musing: Writing fiction is different from writing non-fiction. It’s harder.

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Writers of non-fiction often set out to answer a need: “How to hammer nails straight,” or “How to deceive yourself into believing that this diet will actually work next week.”

In fiction, however, it’s completely up to the writer to make the reader need to read the content. And as I read fiction lately, I find myself trying to deconstruct the appeal some writers hold for me.

First, I want a story that pulls me along. I have to want to find out what happens next. While this strikes me as obvious, some writers apparently need to be told: don’t bore me.

I also appreciate originality. Many writers, particularly of cop or spy stories, seem to be trying to write an episode of their favourite TV show, rather than making up their own stories. Another tip: don’t make everyone beautiful. I’ve said it before: if you look around you, you won’t see a lot of beautiful people. A few, sure. But most humans are tolerable-looking, maybe attractive.

There’s also the depth of characterization, the writer’s ability to make a character or a situation real. Dialogue has a lot to do with this, but writing believable dialogue is very tricky. If you were to write down exactly what people actually say, it would make for very boring and incomprehensible prose — people make up what they say as they go along, and there are a lot of false starts and changes in tense and tone in ordinary speech. And then there’s all the information conveyed by tone of voice and body language. It takes an extraordinarily skilled writer to capture all of that.

How a writer writes

Writing style has a lot of impact on my enjoyment. There’s word choice, and sentence structure, but I don’t have patience for writers who are trying to impress me with their vocabulary. TELL THE STORY.

Many have said: “Show me, don’t tell me.” The writers I like best are those who, simply and clearly, bring me right into the situation.

Here’s a great example from the independent novelist, BestSelling Reads member Gae-Lynn Woods in her novel, The Devil of Light.

Cass Elliot drew a deep breath and slowly released it. Her irritation wasn’t directed at Mitch. She’d been lost in a black funk during the hours they’d spent on the road today. Wondering again why Sheriff Hoffner had bothered to hire and promote her, the first woman detective in Forney County, only to look right through her even when she was standing in front of him. As Mitch settled against the passenger door and began to snore, her thoughts had whirled farther back in time, searching the events of that night long ago, seeking clues to the identity of the man who had changed the course of her life. She was sucked again into an ugly pit of anger and helplessness. The dreams had been worse lately; they jolted her awake with the phantom sensation of fire streaking across her breast and a scream frozen in her throat.

She glanced in the rearview mirror and caught the fury in the flat line of her mouth and the contraction of her brow. Again she breathed deeply, forced the tension from her body and felt exhaustion ooze in to fill the void. When she checked her reflection again, her violet eyes were still weary and her creamy skin too pale, but the imprint of anger and fear on her features was gone. Cass looked at her sleeping partner and snorted in reluctant amusement, resisting the urge to lower his window. Instead, she raised Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” into audible range on the radio.

One blue eye stuttered open. “Are we home yet?”

“Almost.” Her stomach gurgled. “Is Darla there?”

Mitch straightened his long form, gently rocking his head from side to side and swiping at his chin. Stifling a yawn, he checked his watch. “She should be by now. Probably have Zeus with her. Which one of your brothers is cooking?”

“Bruce. Harry’ll be there and want to cook, but Bruce will have control. He always does in the Elliot kitchen. Harry has the girls this weekend so he’ll be wrapped up with them anyway. If Daddy’s home, he’ll stay out of their way.” She grinned, a movement that brought mischievousness to her delicate features. “We’re pretty dysfunctional, aren’t we?”

This example gives the reader a lot of information, but not too much. It tells you about a character and makes you want to read more, without overwhelming you with the dreaded “information dump.”

What not to do:

Here’s an example of an information dump (details altered to protect the guilty):

Michael Chapman stood wearily in line at the ferry’s bar. It had been a long trip, but he was nearing its end. Four years ago Michael was a twenty-eight-year-old investment counselor with a corner office in one of the gleaming glass towers of Atlanta. He thought he had it all — until his marriage disintegrated in a messy divorce in which his wife got the house, the kids, and everything else important to him. After eight more months of pointless activity, he walked away from his job, cashed in what remained of his investments, and bought a ticket to England.

Not only does that use a lot of clichés (“gleaming glass towers,” “marriage disintegrated,” “messy divorce,” “walked away from his job”), there’s no reason to dump all this here. Get on with the story: he’s in line at the bar — does he get his drink? Or does something get in the way? Where is the ferry going? How long has the journey been?

As a reader, I want to read the back-story as it’s needed. Show me the pain of the divorce when Michael meets another potential romantic partner, or some other situation that calls for it. Writing all this in an early chapter forces me to try to remember it all later, which gets harder with a longer book, especially one I might be reading in instalments, day after day, on a commute.

The good example puts the reader right into the situation. It’s personal. Readers can identify with the character. If it were a movie, the director would be starting with a very close focus. Context comes later, naturally as the story rolls out.

What do you think, as a reader?

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Thursday teaser: Back Side of a Blue Moon

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This week’s Thursday teaser is from a brand-new title now available on Amazon.

THE CROWDED GROUNDS of Eudora’s farm was a circus. A freak show. A dance at the gates of hell. Heaven on earth. And Doc had already stolen the pearly gates. Wind whipped up dust devils, and she could not take a step between the house and the rig platform without bumping shoulders against somebody, and, more often than not, the wayfarers had faces she had never seen before.

What were they doing milling around in her yard? Betting on oil? Trying to get rich? Looking for a meal, a job, a home, a place to spend the night, or had they just come down the road to see the free show?  For a town that had dwindled down to a few hundred lost and wretched souls, Ashland was certainly turning out a lot of people on the day Doc had promised to strike oil.

Well, Doc hadn’t really promised to find anything today or any other day. He was nothing but a vaudeville magician trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and the straw boater might be packed with raccoons, squirrels, and possums, but there was nary a rabbit in sight. Eudora chuckled at the thought.

But Charlie Ferguson’s wife Mildred, she knew, had told Ira Sylvester that her husband had smelled oil on the drill bit. Couldn’t mistake it. He was afraid to strike a match, afraid the whole thing might blast him to kingdom come.

Ira told the Reverend Shanks Warren that the drill bit was dripping with black crude. Filled up at least one bucket, maybe two. One rumor was for certain. Doc was running out of buckets. Or so the gossip said, and gossip was running amuck like a horse that had shed his shoes and all of his morals.

Shanks Warren preached it from the pulpit: God has put oil in the ground below us, and he has sent his prophet Doc Bannister to draw it up in buckets from the well. Glory, hallelujah, and amen on us all.

After the last amen had reached the ceiling and fallen flat, his congregation scattered like lost geese flying wild in a blue norther. Too high for the rain. Too slow for the lightning.

Tell another soul.

Tell the world.

It didn’t matter.

About Back Side of a Blue Moon

Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.

Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.

Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.

She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including three noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark.

A graduate of The University of Texas in Austin, Caleb became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

 

He was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

You can find more about Caleb on his BestSelling Reads author page or his Amazon Author page. Also visit his new site, Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

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Writers want to hear from readers

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Next to writing, the thing writers love to do most is . . .  talk with readers about books, writing and what makes reading great.

This week, BestSelling Reads authors share the question they most want to ask readers, as well as the question they most want to answer — the question they’d like readers to ask them.  We’re looking for your responses in the Comments.

Samreen Ahsan, author of award-winning paranormal romances, asks readers whether she should continue writing romance or should try a new genre.

 

Fred Brooke would like to ask readers two different things.

  • How have your reading habits changed over the years—how much you read, what you read, what medium you use to read?
  • Do you read mostly one single genre, or multiple genres? Which ones do you read? Do you read authors who write in two or more different genres?

 

Scott Bury wonders which tropes—those common themes and ideas that authors repeat in a genre—readers would like to say goodbye to. Smart poor girl meets handsome billionaire? Sassy cop can’t work within the rules of the police department? Disillusioned Special Ops soldier’s heart melts for brilliant doctor/scientist of the opposite sex?

He would like to talk to readers about why we love certain characters.

 

Seb Kirby asks readers, “Do you prefer to read a book as part of a series (involving mainly the same characters) or do you prefer each book to be a standalone story?”

And Seb would like to discuss with readers why he writes.

 

Alan McDermott, author of espionage and action thrillers, asks how long should a series be? Three books? Twenty? When should the author say enough is enough for this character? He also asks whether you would be more likely to buy your favorite author’s book for a friend or loved one if it was a signed, personalized paperback?

 

Toby Neal also has two questions:

  • What is your favorite setting to escape to?
  • How has reading helped you deal with stress?

 

Caleb Pirtle III, author of historical mysteries and thrillers, asks two questions:

  • Would you rather read thrillers set in the present or the past?
  • Do you prefer reading 300-page novels or 125-page novellas?

 

Raine Thomas asks readers what draws them to a new book. How do they find new authors? What makes them click that purchase button? And on the flip side, what turns them away from giving a book a try?

 

D.J. Torrens wonders whether you prefer stand-alone stories or a series. She would also ask what has been your favorite twist in a story you have read, in any genre.

 

Gae-Lynn Woods asks

  • How often do you genre-hop?
  • What makes you rush to pick up the next book in a series?

 

What do you say? Relieve us of our suspense in the Comments!

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Easter Monday Musings: Do you love to talk about books?

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Do you love to talk about books? One thing I’d like to do is drink a cup of coffee and talk about books with readers and writers.

I love chatting with readers, but I want more than the usual “Where do you get your ideas from?” I’d like to hear about more specific aspects of the reading experience.

What do you like to talk about when it comes to your favorite books or favorite writers?

What about characters? Do you want the stock heroes and heroines, the Jack Reachers and Jets, the ones who can defeat any foe without question? Or do you prefer the kind of protagonist with weaknesses, flaws, who isn’t certain to win every contest?

What about stories? Many romances today follow the arc of 50 you-know-what: smart, educated but poor young woman meets gorgeous but damaged billionaire. After overcoming several barriers, their love blooms. Does that still have you flipping pages (or swiping left on your e-reader)? Or are you yearning for something different.

Personally, I find the boundaries between genres annoying. In recent years, there has been a profusion of books that combine, or cross, the paranormal or fantasy and romance genres. Do you like that? Are there genres that you’d like to see combined? How about horror and steampunk?

Or what about creating a new genre? What are the books that you’d like to read, but haven’t been written yet?

I also want to know what you want to hear from authors. Are there specific questions, like “Why does the heroine go into that room when she knows the axe murderer is hiding in there?” Or “Why doesn’t he just ask her out, already?”

So tell me what appeals to you in your favourite books, and ask me—or any BestSelling Reads member author—what you’d like to know.

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Meet the author Monday: Seb Kirby

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In our new series, we’re doing some basic introductions for each of our members. This week, it’s Seb Kirby.

How many books have you written?

I’m currently hard at work on my seventh.

Please explain your various series and standalone books.

All the books I’ve written so far are thrillers. The three books in the James Blake series came first. I was interested in telling stories with an international perspective. After drugs and guns, art theft is the third largest international crime. One estimate puts it at $6 billion each year. Organized crime is behind many of the most notorious art thefts. Stolen works of art are used as a form of currency between mob members.

I have a long-term interest in art. Before I took up full-time writing, one aspect of my work as a university academic gave me insights into methods used to restore paintings and sculpture. It seemed natural to draw on this in creating the world that James Blake is drawn into. Uncovering what lies beneath a work of art and its history is also a good vehicle for developing the mystery and suspense that I’ve worked hard to capture in the series.

How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

I wrote the first book, Take No More, as a one-off. It’s a story complete in itself. Then, the inevitable happened. The characters I’d created began to take on a life of their own and the further stories Regret No More and Forgive No More demanded to be written. In Regret No More art theft and a sophisticated conspiracy to cheat collectors out of millions takes center stage, while Forgive No More tells of the wider conspiracy that underlies this branch of organized crime and takes on a much more ambitious, historical dimension. Each is a story complete in itself.

The main character, James Blake, grows in stature, from an ordinary man unwittingly caught up in these events to become a wiser and more assured champion for truth and honesty.

How has your style changed over that same period?

This is a good point to talk about my other stand-alone stories. Alongside the more conventional approach to thrillers in the James Blake series, I have a strong interest in psychological thrillers. This first took shape in Double Bind, a doppelgänger story about a hero struggling to make sense of a profound existential crisis. I wrote this as a thriller and was surprised when it was received as sci-fi. On reflection, this is not too shocking as, since a teenager, I’ve read a great deal of sci-fi and much of that must have been formative in the telling of the story.

In writing Double Bind and in seeking to capture the mind-set of the main character, I was drawn to a more minimalist style than the one used in the James Blake stories where conventional third person, past tense is used throughout.

Double Bind introduced me to writing in first person, present tense and I’ve carried that through in three stand-alone psychological thrillers set in London. Each Day I Wake and Sugar for Sugar are available now. I’m currently close to completing a third story, as yet untitled, to be released in September. These books do not form a series as such but they have a commonality of place—the South Bank and East End of London—and share some characters. Each is a stand-alone story and can be read in any order.

Has the way you write, or your process, evolved?

My writing process has evolved with each book, as described above. There are many ways to write a novel and I think I’m still investigating some of the many possibilities.

But underlying it all is storytelling. That’s the real currency that we all work with.

When do you write? Is there a time of day, or a period during the week? I don’t adopt a set pattern in writing. I just set myself the goal of achieving something tangible every day. As Dorothy Parker put it: “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” That’s my guiding principle.

Is there a particular place you like to be to write?

I used to write in notebooks whenever I had the opportunity—traveling to work by train, grabbing a few minutes at lunch-time. Now I write full time, I tend to work at a (not too tidy) desk in my home office. But I still use notebooks to capture ideas as they come, whenever they come.

About Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby was born and raised in Birmingham, UK.

Get to know more about Seb at:

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Thursday Teaser: Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

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By Samreen Ahsan

Once Upon A [Stolen\ TimeShe is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

About Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

2015…

GiftedMeAll her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is available at:

About the author

History, art and literature are Samreen Ahsan’s passions. She loves digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, but don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

She has been into reading and writing since childhood — it cannot happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes she enjoys, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Samreen Ahsan lives in Toronto, Canada. A Silent Prayer (A Prayer Series) is her first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts.

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Meet the author Monday: Eden Baylee

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Get to know your favorite BestSelling Reads authors better. This week features Eden Baylee.

How many books have you written?

I have nineteen titles available for sale. They include anthologies, novels and novellas, and collections with other authors.

You’ve written more than one book for the Lei Crime Kindle World. How have those main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

I have three novellas in Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle Worlds’ series: A Snake in Paradise; SEAL of a Monk; and Charade at Sea.

For these stories, I developed a brand new character named Lainey Lee and wove her into the settings and back story of the first three books in Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series. Lainey appears in all three of my books, and a Navy SEAL named Max Scott enters the scene in the second book.

Lainey transforms from an inhibited newly-divorced woman to someone who finds a little more of herself in each book.

How has your style changed over that same period?

I don’t think my style of writing has changed. I write in both the literary erotica and mystery/suspense genres, so my books for Kindle Worlds evoke a moody sense of place and vibrant characters.

Add to this a setting in Hawaii and a mystery that needs to be solved, and you’ll find the books are easy to read with interesting and believable characters.

Has the way you write, or your process, evolved? For example, do you use outlines more or less now? What about the way you create characters or build worlds?

I’m a pantser par excellence. When ideas flow, I’m go-go-go. When they don’t, then it’s difficult. I’ve been going through a particularly rough patch of late, but it’s something I need to push through. There is no other way around it. It’s one day at a time putting words to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Characters are the backbone of a story, so it’s important to make sure they are carefully developed. Modeling them after real people helps keep them real.

When do you write? Is there a time of day, or a period during the week? A particular place you like to be to write?

I write standing at my kitchen counter most of the time. The room has natural light and the counter is long with plenty of space for my writing and research material. I’m also using two Apple laptops, so the set-up works well. My husband thinks it’s my very own genius bar!

I’m an early riser but I don’t write immediately upon waking. I usually begin work after a leisurely breakfast and work late into the evening. I write six days a week.

How do you create new characters?

Most characters are modeled after someone I know or have known. I combine different traits of people I’ve met and create one character. In my novel, Stranger at Sunset, you find a lot of characters; many are inspired by someone familiar to me. Even though we have unpleasant dealings with people in real life, they sometimes make for the best characters. No experience is ever wasted.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

They come from a variety of sources—stories I’ve read or heard, TV shows, movies, music—life in general, really. I definitely listen more than I speak, and that helps.

How do you feel your writing style and process have evolved over the course of writing your books?

I’ve become less hung up on specific words. I’m a logophile who can worry about the use of a particular word or description, even though I know readers won’t necessarily care as much. As an example, whether a dress is green, blue, or red is less important than if it’s made of a sheer, see-through material, but I do tend to sweat the details.

In order to create books, you have to look at the bigger picture. It’s not simply about writing well, it’s about telling a good story. Being a perfectionist can really stall the process of getting the book out there.

It’s a fine balance for me, most days.

More about Eden

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres. She has written three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction: Spring Into Summer,  Fall into Winter and Hot Flash.

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called Stranger at Sunset. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas are available on Kindle Worlds.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! Connect to her via all her networks. She loves talking to readers!

Eden can be found on

her Website   |    Bestselling Reads Author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   LinkedIn   |    Amazon

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