Your one-stop shop for the avid readers on your holiday shopping list

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What can you buy the avid reader on your holiday shopping list? BestSelling Reads has the materials that make your shopping easy.

Whether your loved ones love mysteries, romance, action thrillers, science fiction or fantasy, our authors have award-winning, bestselling titles they’ll love.

This week, we present the titles for the romance lovers.

Toby Neal’s Michaels Family romance series takes you back to a time before texting and sexting with lush love stories that take readers around the world.

Raine Thomas writes romances for the New Adult audience. Featuring realistic, college-age characters, they describe the tension between career, education, family and love.

D.G. Torrens’ romances are based on true stories about children, soldiers and nurses, finding their way through an often brutal world to find love.

The Amelia series

The Poppy Fields trilogy

Forbidden

The Ferria/Fielding series

Broken Wings

The late Kathleen Valentine wrote romances about mature adults who have learned how to shed the pretences, games and shackles foisted on them in youth.

Looking for more heat?

BestSelling Reads isn’t afraid to turn up the thermostat when it comes to romance.

Eden Baylee writes romances that are honest about sensuality and sex.

And for Habanero-level heat:

Scott Bury’s One Shade of Red turns the biggest erotic romance on its head—with excellent writing style the eschews e-mails and explicit, exciting descriptions. Make sure you have a glass of water when you read this!

 

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Monday musings: On Cyber Monday, books and writing

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It’s Cyber Monday, the day when we’re all supposed to head to the online shops and buy electronics. Now, don’t worry—I’m not here to complain about the over-commercializations of the holiday. Not this time, anyway.

But this day every year is a good place to mark the evolution of our market economy. To observe just how much has changed in our shopping and buying habits.

It seems that the growth of digital e-books at the expense of paper has slowed. Maybe we’re reaching some kind of equilibrium.  We’ve learned the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, and are allowing both formats their space.

It also seems fitting that on Cyber Monday, two major Canadian newspaper chains are closing dozens of community newspaper. The owners say that in many communities, declining advertising revenue means the community newspaper business model is no longer viable.

Why not? The easy.analysis is to blame the eruption of online news and entertainment.

It’s an easy analysis, but it’s simplistic.

As many sides as a diamond

There are many sides to this shift. The newspaper industry has been decimated by the public shift online. Hundreds, if not thousands of journalists have lost what on time seemed a great career. Not to mention all the thousands of other Jo’s at a newspaper.

On another side, some journalists have made the shift online, themselves.And for readers, there is a vast  range of choice in new online sources for news and entertainment, and it”s so easy to find the information you want.

On a third side, there’s also a proliferation of “fake news” sources. I don’t know whether the proportion of deliberately false information online is greater than it ever was for print, but there sure is a lot of it, and people sure pay attention.

And on yet another side, there is the tracking by tech and social media companies of everything that we look at, read or buy.

Somebody’s making money. Who do you think it is?

Community newspapers are closing because there just is not enough money in the business. I know from personal experience how much cheaper online advertising is than for print—partly because of lower production costs, but mostly because of the different, per-click model, but mostly because when online advertising began,  no one knew what they were doing.

But someone is making money online. I’ll let you work that out for yourself.

Trying to stay optimistic

For avid book readers, this is a great day. So many of the authors I know are doing some kind of Black Friday or Cyber Monday launches, promotions,sales and announcements. And most e-book prices are a fraction of the cost of paper books.

Yes, there are a lot of really bad books out there. Because it’s so much easier and cheaper to produce an e-book, it’s also easier to find not only bad writing, but books produced by those who obviously have no clue to to format a book, or what punctuation is for. You can usually tell these by the amateurish covers, but not always.

Still, readers have a lot more choice. Which means it’s up to you to make good choices.

Good luck, and happy holidays.

 

 

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Thanksgiving giveaway: A Case of Sour Grapes #excerpt

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This week’s excerpt comes from

Gae-Lynn Woods

Keep reading to see how you could win a free copy this Thanksgiving.

THE SHADOWS

IT’S A HELPLESS FEELING knowing it’s nearly midnight and your best friend is roaming the streets in pursuit of someone who might want to hurt you both, and you can do nothing to help her.

Except exactly what she tells you to do.

So I did. As I snatched up the phone on Aunt Kay’s desk and dialed, the conference room window exploded. A chorus of screams sounded and my heart jumped into overdrive. Despite the fear, I surprised myself by dropping the phone and squatting to duck walk into the conference room.

Kay and Babby hissed behind me like a pair of spitting cobras, but I stayed low and ignored them. If our intruder was throwing things, he might be armed. That was bad for Cass. I crunched across the conference room floor, bits of glass glittering in the sparse light filtering through the blinds. As had been the case for months now, there was absolutely no breeze, but the humid air rushed to invade our cool offices. The wooden slat blinds were ajar and through the slit I could see into the street. Lights were on around the square and I realized why Cass had reacted so quickly. From the conference room, she would’ve seen the glow of street lights even against the closed blinds. There was no logical reason for our power to go out.

Smart cookie.

Arcadia has a beautiful old courthouse in the middle of a grass lawn wrapped by the one way street that goes around the square. Seconds had passed since the window shattered, but nothing moved. I stayed low and waited, watching. Cass rounded the corner of the block at a full sprint. A sliver of shadow separated from the base of a giant oak on the courthouse lawn and scurried east.

I shouted through the empty window frame, “That way, Cass. He’s on foot.” I pointed and watched as she ran after him. Moments later sirens filled the night air, still heavy with a heat that would keep us in the eighties through the night.

My knees were protesting and I was ready to stand when a second shadow moved. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing at first, but a dark mass peeled away from the tall war memorial and morphed into the blackness beneath another live oak. I couldn’t decide what to do. Cass was out of earshot and I couldn’t see clearly where this figure was headed. I kept my eyes on the lawn and whispered for cousin Cindy to join me.

“There’s glass everywhere, Maxine. I’m not coming in there.”

I resisted the urge to snap at her. “Call 911 again. There’s a second man on the courthouse lawn. He was hiding — wait. There he goes again. South. Call now, Cindy.”

She backed away and I heard a phone being uncradled and a voice murmuring. More sirens wailed into the night but they were too late. I’d lose this second man if I didn’t hit street level.

I think that’s when I realized just how badly I wanted to be a detective. Maybe even needed it. I was utterly helpless while my best friend was out risking her life for a case I’d stumbled into. In those minutes when Cass was out of my sight, before I heard the gunshots, a tiny piece of me grew up.

But the rest of me was still impulsively immature.

Then a gunshot cracked and an image of Cass unconscious in a hospital bed those few weeks ago hit my brain. Icy fear flooded my body.

A second gunshot sounded.

I ran for the agency’s front door.

About A Case of Sour Grapes

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong?

Meet Maxine Leverman, lover of expensive shoes, beautiful handbags, and her lingerie wearing ex-husband’s hush money. When she pleads her way into a job at family run Lost and Found Investigations, Maxine’s only goal is to gain the concealed carry license and PI skills she needs to find the man who attacked her, and then kill him. (Or maybe just put him in jail, that decision can wait.)

But when she secretly takes a missing husband case on her first day at the agency, she stumbles into a high-stakes game of blackmail and murder. Maxine must unravel the links between a forgotten folk punk band, an international drug cartel, and the tangled history of the missing husband to keep the women in his life alive.

Fans of the early Stephanie Plum novels and Stuart Woods’ Holly Barker series will love Maxine’s tenacity, grit, and lust for life.

Get it on Amazon.

How to win a free copy

For a free book, answer: If you were Maxine’s best friend Cass, would Maxine’s bravery/impulsiveness inspire you or drive you crazy?

Leave your answers in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About the author

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

 

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Monday musings: Can you ever please a literary agent?

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By Samreen Ahsan

I’m an indie author and I published my first book, A Silent Prayer, in February 2014. Before publishing, I tried to pitch many literary agents, but unfortunately received only rejections because (obviously) no one cares for an unknown author. I was advised that I should self-publish, get some reviews and accolades and then come back again with another query letter.

So, I accepted the criticism as their wisdom words and published through an independent publisher―a lot of cost was also involved. Of course, nothing comes free. Writing and publishing a book is a tedious business, which requires lots of effort, unwavering dedication and money.

Success grabbed my hand and I kept winning awards and recognition one after another, receiving five-star reviews by readers and appreciative feedback from some editorial critics. I kept sending query letters to agents. I received nothing but rejection. I’ve even lost count now.

Then, I read some blogs where authors discussed: you need to work on the query letter. Again, I took this advice and worked on my query letter. I thought maybe my query letter was not good enough. I hired professionals who helped me make query letters. I got a few responses. The positive ones from agents asked me to send the first few chapters and a detailed synopsis.

Again, after three months of waiting, I was still let down by the agents. I don’t care how much money I’d earn after selling my booksall I want my book is to be available in every bookstore, broadening my readership. And this won’t be possible without coming under the umbrella of a large publishing house, which is

not possible without pleasing an agent.

So how do you do that? Honestlyno answer.

They read your first three chapters and decide the book is not good enough for the mass market. I’ve read some crappy books that became NYT bestsellers―whose initial chapters did not gain my attention as a reader, and whose reviews were also not worth discussing.

I don’t know exactly what intrigues the agent. Is it the writing style, the story, the character depth―I don’t know. I’ve seen books with skyrocketing sales that have no plot, no depth in the characters and a very predictable story-line with abundant sex scenes that sound ridiculously impossible in reality. Sex in an elevator, on a kitchen counter, over an office deskreally? I want to meet those couples in real life.

So I thought maybe I have issues with my story. It doesn’t matter if it has more than fifty five-star reviews or seven awardsmaybe the story is not fit for the mass market. For a test, I uploaded my book for free on Wattpad to see how readers would take my story. The response was unbelievable. Within two months, more than hundred thousand subscribers read my book, liked it, voted it and purchased the second book of the series from either Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or Kobo. My sales increased―my readership increased. Still, everyday I receive messages through Wattpad how amazing the book is, people begging me to upload the second book of the series since, in some countries, the ebook is not available and it is not available in their bookstores where they could just go and buy it.

That is why I wanted to publish through a large publishing house: to make it available for readers, bringing my story to the shelves of all bookstores. I know: not everyone carries a tablet or e-reader. There are people on this planet who still like to feel the book and prefer a paperback.

Interestingly, I still receive rejections after tremendous support and positive feedback of my readers. First agents say: you need to get reviews and recognition (which is not possible without publishing a book) and then they say…oh! we see you’ve already published it. Come back later with a new unpublished manuscript. (Huh! What a nice approach to reject!) And it seems like a recursive process.

Apparently, one of the agents told me that despite being good reviews, they want to see if I’ve good sales as well. It made me chuckle when they said they’d only pick my book if the Amazon sales is at least 50K per year. Really? If I were making this much amount of money from my one book, why would I need an agent to take all my book rights and give me only 2% of the sale?

And all they say is: it just needs one agent to like your book. So, I’m waiting for the right agent to like it. If you’re writing a book or planning to query the agents―be prepared for rejections but don’t think your work is bad. Every author has a different voice―you can’t compare apples and oranges―likewise, you can’t compare Nora Roberts and Dan Brown.

So, just be patient, keep querying agents and hope for the best.

After all, you need only to please one!

Samreen Ahsan is the author of the multi-award winning Prayer series.

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

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing–and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities. I live in Toronto, Canada.

The Prayer series, comprising A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, is my first story about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. My new series begins with Once Upon a [Stolen] Time.

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Monday musings: The co-authoring experience, part 2

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This week, we continue and conclude last week’s conversation with Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman, co-authors of the bestselling Scorch Romance-Thriller series about what it’s like to be co-authors. This week focuses on characters and the development of the author.

Sometimes the behavior or reaction of a character surprises the author. Which characters in the Scorch series surprised you?

Emily Kimelman: All of the characters surprised me at one point or another, but Luca (the lead brother in Smoke Road) really surprised me. I was having trouble connecting with him, figuring out what made him tick, and then I found out he was a practicing Catholic and after that I understood him a lot better. His faith and its connection to his family history really affected Luca a lot.

The other character who surprised me the most was Avital, from Cinder Road. I wrote a scene that left her and Dolf in a position that, um, how do I put this… left them in a hot situation and I told Toby that they couldn’t get it on, but I had no idea how she was going to keep them apart. But she did. When I read her scene the next day I was like, “Oh crap, that’s good.” Avital is a badass with an iron will—I already knew that about Avital but I didn’t expect her to act the way that Toby wrote it, which was spot-on. 

That’s one of the great joys about co-authoring: your character in the other author’s hands, acting in ways that surprise and delight. 

Toby Neal: Yes, I agree. Our characters often surprise us in our work alone, too, and sometimes we have to sit with it and decide if that was really something that a character would do—and edit if necessary. Most of the time, once Emily and I were past the first fourth or so of a book, we really “knew” each other’s characters and were able to nail it, surprises and all.

But we sometimes had to cut things that didn’t ring true, and usually in they happened in that first third or so of the book when we didn’t yet really know our partner’s concept for their character.

For instance, in the scene with Dolf and Avital that kicks off the second book, we broke all the romance trope rules. We had a forbidden love thing going on with a widow and her husband’s twin (not an unfamiliar trope), but we broke the rules by having them sleep together in the first chapter.

We agreed that that would kick things off—contrary to most romances, which build to a climax (so to speak), but I took it further than our agreed upon love scene and … well. Let’s just say Dolf and Avital ended up all over the house in compromising positions. Damn, it was hot. I’m good at sex scenes! I patted myself on the back and went on with my day.

Emily disagreed, and cut my scene. 

To the bone, so to speak (everything becomes an innuendo as soon as we talk sex.)

I was upset and offended at first, but came to agree with Emily eventually that the ensuing sex around the house was out of character for Avital (though Dolf, being a guy who’d been in love with this woman for years, would have been happy to get whatever he could!) And through the challenge we experienced during that editing process (her having an instinctive NO and cutting, me recoiling in hurt and frustration, us having to hash it out) we added to our Process Document: if either of us has a hard no to something big, we have to highlight and discuss before just chucking in the Recycle bin.

Now, let me pause a moment to talk about sex.

Sex is a huge element in most stories because it’s a basic human drive, and in romance it’s a pillar of the genre. But what “floats your boat” in a love scene is hugely individual to the reader, hence the plethora of genres and heat levels within romance. As we proceeded, we discussed what we wanted our sexy times to be like. Emily told me she was eclectic; she liked a variety of writers and styles, and was not easily offended by certain words and whatnot. 

I however, was super specific. I wanted sex to be lyrically written with exceptional prose, no clichés, no jarring expletives or use of crude words. Those things pinged my brain to fall out of the story as a reader, and I wanted to write what I liked to read. Emily was amenable to this, so I gave her several books by authors whose work in this area I admired (and I have to say, there aren’t many of them. If you like Diana Gabaldon’s style with sex or Laura Florand’s, you will know how I like to read/write sex) and thus we proceeded. 

I wrote many of the first few books’ scenes as Emily was learning my particular bent with this, but by the second book she was going strong and we were able to massage the scenes into a unified style that effectively created romantic, emotional but hot mood we had agreed upon.

So that was probably TMI, but it was also a surprise to discover in setting out, that there are many many ways to “do it” and one or the other partner may be as fussy as I was.

Okay, last question: You have written and published the last of the Scorch Romance Thriller series – at least for now, as you’ve stated. But since Book 6, you’ve both released new titles in your own individual series, and say you’re working on new titles. Toby, you’ve also announced you’re working on your autobiography, and Emily, you’re working on Sydney Rye #10.

What do you think you are each taking from your co-authoring experience into your own series? In terms of process, style, understanding of characters, plotting? In other words, do you think your experience or the stories of the Scorch series themselves have affected your other writing in the future?

Emily Kimelman: I think writing with Toby has affected my writing style for sure. I can’t imagine how you could write six books with another person and walk away without having gleamed a lot of insights. One of the big difference between our styles was that I write a fast and sloppy first draft and enjoy what we started calling the “franken” edit (after Frankenstein). Toby and I had to outline for obvious reasons, but we did get a lot looser with it as we moved toward the end of the series.

 

I have returned to my no outline ways, except I keep “Take off Your Pants” by Libby Hawker close at hand and I make notes about future scenes rather than just running at the thing full bore until it’s over.

I think both of us got really good at delving into our characters motivations—we had to explain them to each other, which was totally surprising at first but came to be a key to the style we developed. I think I spend more time questioning myself than I used to … or more to the point, questioning my characters. Why did you do that? And their answers always open up new paths and interesting plot twists.

Also, mixing up our points of view and changing our tense throughout the series kept it super fresh and was really eye opening to me. I’d never thought to do that in one series and loved it. So, now I use multiple POVs in my other work. And I have plans to change up my tense in future series.

I also think that spending a year kicking skinhead butt and exploring romance has made it possible for me to return to my own work with more excitement. Although, after Charlottesville I did think I want to kill some Nazis in my next book. And then I laughed at myself because I’d spent a year taking down white supremacists. So, I’ll continue destroying ISIS in my Sydney Rye series for now … but fictional Nazis better watch out because I’m not done with them yet!

Toby Neal: Great answer Emily!

I was already doing a lot of the things Emily mentions as far as POV and tense shifts, but now I’ve begun to dictate the majority of my first draft as a result of working with Emily.

Reading our prose to each other was something we came up with about two-thirds of the way into the books to circumvent the tendency to waste our writing energy editing each other’s work. Doing so has opened a whole new area for me. I not only compose verbally now, but plan to read my own books for audiobook distribution.

I have literally discovered my voice as a result of working with Emily!

I also have begun using Scrivener, which Emily uses but I hadn’t liked. Now I dictate and put my rough prose into my nice clean Scrivener outline and I can manipulate scenes in new ways. My newest book has five points of view, and very short chapters of a page or two. I think it’s added to the intensity of the book and will appeal to the modern reader. Experimenting is what keeps us growing!

Many of the ways Emily and I benefited from co-authoring are intangible and still being revealed, but Emily’s innovation with tech also inspired me to try a lot of new things with marketing.
I miss the excitement we generated together and the fun and immediacy of sharing good work. Now, by the time my book gets to readers, I’m “over it” and never got to share the joy of a great scene with a peer. Though I like the freedom of my solo writing, I miss the fun of co-authoring. I highly recommend it as a way to learn, grow, and break out of ruts!

Thanks very much to you both.

Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman are the co-authors of the Scorch Romance Thriller series, six post-apocalyptic stories revolving around six Luciano brothers, a sister and their mother, and the others who come into and change their lives.

About the series

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.

About the authors

Born in Philadelphia and having lived in many places around the world, Emily Kimelman is the author of nine books in her bestselling Sydney Rye series (with a tenth coming soon) and two Kindle World novellas in addition to the Scorch series.

Find out all about Emily on her BestSelling Reads author page.

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

She is the author of 27 books in addition to the Scorch series: 12 Lei Crime series books, two companion books to the series, two Kindle World novellas, four “Somewhere in” romances, a young adult fantasy novel and five in her new Wired series, with a six soon to come.

Learn more about her on her BestSelling Reads author page.

 

 

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Thursday teaser: 6 Hours 42 Minutes

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Vigilante series, book 5

By Claude Bouchard

Claude Bouchard

Gina Tomasso had remained speechless with fear ever since the little man, the one they called Sparks, had ushered her and Leslie out of the kitchenette at ten that morning. The most communication she had managed since was to shake her head twice, once when asked if she needed to use the bathroom and once when Sara and Leslie had tried to coax her to eat a slice of pizza.

She could not understand how the others could just sit there as the minutes dragged by, one leading to the next, and seem relatively calm. Some, like Simon Chase and Leslie, maybe, because they thrived on conflict, nothing ever seemed to faze them, but even Annette and Erin didn’t seem too concerned, under the circumstances.

In comparison, she was certain that the terror, the panic she felt, was slowly ripping bite after ragged bite within her, an accelerated form of psychological cancer which would actually kill her if this nightmare did not end soon.

She had almost screamed, in fact, she had tried to, when Sara had been selected to be set free a little earlier but had found herself unable to, as if the relentless, evil dread within her had left even her vocal chords paralysed.

She watched with dead eyes as the head robber, Bull, closed the phone and approached the hostages once again.

“Here’s the deal,” he announced. “I’m sure, positive, in fact, that the captain out there is stalling with bringing in the helicopter he promised me but I’ve decided to give him another hostage, just to show him the kind of guy I am.”

Gina felt her heart lurch at those words and prayed, “Me! Please! Please choose me!”

As before, Bull scanned the group, his eyes roaming past the faces, past hers and onwards then back to her.

“How about you?” he asked, his tone almost kind as he gazed at her.

“Oh My God,” thought Gina as she frantically nodded and scrambled to her feet, almost falling back down in her haste.

“Just wait there for a second,” said Bull as he pulled his phone back out and placed a call. “Leblanc, just to show you that I’m a man of my word, I’m sending you another hostage. You tell your guys to stay back.”

He closed the phone, looked at Gina and smiled. “Let’s go.”

Juice took a step forward and Bull stopped him. “I’ll let her out. You keep an eye on our other guests.”

He motioned Gina towards the front door with an almost gallant gesture then followed her. Once there, he looked through a gap in the vertical blinds to ensure that the coast was clear then pulled out a key and unlocked the door.

“Thanks for being so brave,” he said to Gina as he pulled the door open for her. “Don’t run, just walk.”

She smiled with relief and walked quickly down the pathway leading to the street crowded with cops and their cars. Bull watched her go from the partially open door and  when she was ten feet or so down the path, he raised his gun and shot her twice in the back then closed and relocked the door.

About 6 Hours 42 Minutes

Though most of them dabbled in a variety of criminal activities, they weren’t experienced in this particular field and had never been involved in a job like this before. However, with proper planning, careful organization and the inside information available to them, they were certain that this bank heist would be a piece of cake. Ten minutes, in and out, was all it would take and they’d be sharing 2.5 million dollars. Nothing could go wrong as they had thought of everything … how could they possibly know a new member of the board was visiting the bank that morning? And how could they know that new board member was Chris Barry?

Get it on Amazon.

Win a free copy from the author

You could WIN a free copy of 6 Hours 42 Minutes from the author, Claude Bouchard. All you have to do is leave a comment telling us the title of the sixth book in the Vigilante series.

About the author

USA Today bestselling author Claude Bouchard was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eyes of two black females of the feline persuasion.

He completed his studies at McGill University and worked in various management capacities for a handful of firms over countless years. From there, considering his extensive background in human resources and finance, it was a logical leap in his career path to stay home and write crime thrillers.

His first novel, Vigilante, was published in 2009.  Since then, besides writing Asylum, a stand-alone, the Vigilante Series has grown to thirteen thrilling installments with his latest release, Make It Happen.

Claude has also penned Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah, as well as Nasty in Nice, his contribution to Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. His books have topped the chart in the Vigilante Justice category on Amazon and some 600,000 copies have been distributed to date.

Claude’s other interests include reading, playing guitar, painting, cooking, traveling and trying to stay in reasonable shape.

Visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

 

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A talk with bestselling co-authors Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

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Emily Kimelman (left) and Toby Neal.

Last winter, BSR members Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman surprised the reading world by launching a co-authored series of six books, the Scorch Romance Thriller series. The first volume, Scorch Road, instantly hit the bestseller list. They followed it up with more books in the series roughly every three weeks, except for the last in the series.

Even though there was a two-and-a-half month break between the fifth and the final books in the series, Smolder Road, this publishing schedule speaks to a strong professional ethic on the part of both co-authors, a strong planning and development process and a dedication to getting things done right.

The series crosses genre boundaries. It’s about a family of six brothers and a sister from South Philadelphia, and how they respond when a pandemic, the Scorch Flu, sweeps across the United States. (Unfortunately, the authors did not explore what happens in Canada or Mexico.) Each book focuses on the experiences of one of the Luciano brothers in the pandemic, and how in the hell that ensues, they find love.

We spoke to Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman about their writing and publishing process, and what they learned through this ambitious and gruelling process.

The Scorch Romance Thriller series

  1. Scorch Road (JT) — published January 31, 2017
  2. Cinder Road (Dolf) — published February 21, 2017
  3. Smoke Road (Luca) — published March 14, 2017
  4. Burnt Road (Dante) — published April 4, 2017
  5. Flame Road (Cash) — published May 9, 2017
  6. Smolder Road (Lucy) — published July 21, 2017

Who came up with the idea for a family of six brothers and a sister from Philly? Why seven kids?

Toby Neal: What I remember is that, in January of 2016, after my first ever fallow spell of not being able to write, I called Emily with the idea of co-authoring, hoping the fun and energy generated by working on a project with someone I enjoyed and liked, whose writing was in the same vein as mine, would jump start me again. 

Emily was also coming off a fallow writing spell, but from recent maternity for her first child, and immediately said yes. I told her I wanted to do something that was primarily romance, but with thrills and action and something to do with the worries I had about the end of the world, a not uncommon concern.

We began brainstorming and came up with pandemic as the problem, and then a family compound they escape to, and then I threw in Italians because I LOVE Italians and Italy and the culture and everything about it, and Emily threw in Philly because she’s from there and understands the folks and culture there, and then I did character bios for the guys, Emily did character bios for the girls, and we began plotting the whole series and the progress of the pandemic’s arc, and the events and themes of the books. Unlike either of our other work heretofore, neither of us had ever plotted a series ahead of time. 

Emily Kimelman: Toby approached me to co-author in January 2016 and I was hugely flattered. Toby is a powerhouse author and we’d written for each others Kindle Worlds and gone on a writing retreat together so I already had mad respect for her. The fact that she wanted to work with me totally boosted my confidence and made me feel awesome.

But we couldn’t start working together until June because I wanted to enjoy my maternity leave.  My daughter, Juniper, was only three months old in January 2016 and I was not back at work except to respond to emails. Plus, I needed to write another Sydney Rye book before starting a new series. Not only did I owe it to my fans but the story was trying to claw it’s way out of my brain, lol. So, yeah, I had to attend to that beast.

But both of us were interested in writing a romance series with action adventure elements. We wanted to make it a big family so that we could write a lot of books. We both felt that six was a nice number for a series… we basically bit off way more than we could chew. That is one of the many things we have in common. We also both wanted to try releasing a series all at once. Our process really evolved over the course of the books. We came to realize that the collaboration had to be super intimate and equal. It didn’t work for one of us to create the outline and the other just follow it. We had to discuss every step but still leave room to surprise each other. We really hit our stride with the second book, Cinder Road, and by the time we finished Smolder Road (the sixth and final book of the series),  we were a well oiled writing machine. 

Tell us about the process of co-writing. You said you agreed on the outline after much discussion. Did you outline the whole series in detail before you began writing, or did you outline each book one at a time? And how did you decide who would do the first draft of which section?

Emily Kimelman: We outlined the entire series in about a week but each book changed quite a bit once we got going. I’ve always been a pantser and Toby is more of a plotter but we figured out a way to make it work for both of us by the end.

We divided up the characters in the beginning. Toby had the idea for the original brothers and then I added all the women, including Lucy. The only book we switched was for Luca and Nani. I came up with the idea of a badass Hawaiian woman who would be Luca’s boss and suggested that Toby write her since I’ve been to Hawaii once in my life. Of course, Toby has never been to Philly so I ended up editing her scenes for appropriate slang etc. I also had to constantly be taking porches and picket fences out of her Philly scenes. Lol. 

Toby Neal: This is a good spot to mention our process document.

This central doc where we kept track of our writing and editing process was a living, breathing tool that kept us sane from book to book, because it evolved with us and we learned new things and overcame new challenges. As we went, after the initial outlining in general and handwritten timeline on a big paper with the timeline of the books (beginning of pandemic, middle of pandemic, aftermath, seasons and months), we had new problems to solve with each book. 

For instance, Smoke Road, which was heavy on military action, needed a consult with retired Army sergeant and fellow writer Mary Doyle to have the realistic flair we wanted. She ripped huge holes in our imaginary military plot and battles, but we’d already written the book, so then a giant structural edit was in order. We learned from that and put in our process doc that any consult had to then take place before the book was written.

We also learned that the outlines were important and needed to keep us on track (after galloping off into ad-libbing in the first book and it being really bad), but also that we needed to keep the last third open for twists, turns and reveals that the characters seemed to generate themselves … so we would only stick with outline until the two-thirds or so point, then let the characters dictate the action. 

We also captured in the process document the hard-learned process of editing, which we had down to a science by the end.

We divided the editing according to our strengths: Emily would do our first big edit after a long phone convo with me talking through all of the scenes and making comments in the draft, a process we called the “Frankenedit,” after Frankenstein and because the book really lurched at that point.

Then, I did a line edit of the whole manuscript, and tightened and tweaked and tucked. Then Emily did another line edit, familiarizing herself with my changes and tweaks, and then I did a final line edit, then it went to the copyeditor.

By then the voice of the writing was consistent throughout, even though we’d originally written different characters: me the guys, and she the gals, as Emily has already mentioned.

Early on, we discovered that Google Docs, where we’d set everything up and stored all our mutual descriptions of the characters and world and outlines, was actually corrupting Word every time we downloaded, and embedding our copy with random “unicode” which drove us and our copyeditors totally nuts (not Emily, who was on Mac, and never saw it, lucky girl) 

So here’s our tip: whatever you do, don’t use Google Docs to coordinate your project!

In future, we’re talking about using Dropbox Paper or Microsoft Office.

In case you thought co-authoring was easier than writing your own book alone … I would have to say no, it’s not. But I still miss the fun and surprises of having my characters do new stuff every day in the hands of another talented writer!

You’re both dog authors—that is, the main characters in your original series, the ones that made you bestsellers have dogs, which are major characters in themselves. All the heroes in the Scorch series have dogs, and Melody has two. 

What does a dog bring to a novel?

Toby Neal: Dogs. They add so much extra dimension to a book. Dogs are comic relief; they are smelly sidekicks, they are furry friends who are always there for the hero(ine) when they are down. They tug at the heartstrings and provide opportunities for heroic acts, either by them or for them. Dogs are great to create new paths for our hero(ine) to go down, literally following a scent, and they always guard and bark, warning of danger.

Cinder Road‘s hard billionaire hero, Dolf, has an ugly old tomcat. I chose a cat because that more reflected Dolf’s aloof but loyal personality, and cats, while not as easy to integrate into a story because of their independent nature, are lovely pets too. We felt having that ugly old cat and lugging it everywhere said a lot about Dolf’s character that was not immediately apparent in his smooth operator persona.

Burnt Road‘s hero, Dante, obtains a horse he incongruously (for an autistic person, thus revealing his inner marshmallow nature) names Sweetie. Horses are also fabulous story enhancers, and their emotions are easily read and greatly affect the characters and their ability to navigate. Both Emily and I ride and enjoy horses whenever we can get our legs around them!

Pets in a story hook the reader’s emotions…and our emotions, too. I am a pet-loving person; Emily is too, and we plan to continue our trademark choice to include pets (dogs usually) in our stories.

Emily Kimelman: I agree with everything Toby said. Having a pet in any book helps readers instantly connect with the story and as the author it gives us a great way to reveal traits of our characters without having to point them out. Melody running through a mob, holding her two foster puppies to her chest, tells us a lot about the kind of person she is: compassionate, brave, loving, without having to show that through a more complicated and nuanced relationship with a human. Obviously, we show that side of her within her relationship with Dante, but the two puppies let us put it all into the opening scene… plus they are so cute!

Many readers who don’t have dogs can enjoy spending time with a fictional puppy. (No clean-up is always a good thing.) Also, for me, it’s part of what makes a story real. I don’t want to spend time in a world without heroic pets. It just feels fake without them.

Coming next week: BestSelling Reads find out about writing sex scenes and how characters can surprise the authors who created them.

Toby Neal is the author of 27 books in addition to being the co-author of the Scorch series.

Learn more about Toby.

Emily Kimelman is the author of X books in addition to the Scorch series

Learn more about Emily.

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Thursday teaser: New books from your favorite BestSelling authors

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Fall always feels like the start of a new year, a good time for new initiatives and launching new books—as well as for pumpkin spiced everything.

Your favorite BestSelling authors have been hard at work, and have a tasty selection of new books for you. Take a look, follow the links and think about which titles belong on your gift list—because the holiday season is approaching faster than you want to think.

Barb Drozdowich

The Author’s On-Line Presence: How to Find Readers

Authors: Stop wasting valuable writing time and let Barb break down dry, complex subjects into easy to learn bites without the technobabble.

Get it on

Emily Kimelman

In Sheep’s Clothing: Sydney Rye #9

Sydney Rye is missing, and the Islamic State has a mysterious new enemy. Join the ruthless Robert Maxim and Sydney’s mother in the hunt!

Get it on

Toby Neal

Wired Dark : Paradise Crime #4

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui to solve a series of bizarre threats against a rock star, where she’s tested by a deadly enemy out to destroy everything she loves.

Get it on

Renée Pawlish

The Damned Don’t Die: A Reed Ferguson Mystery #16

A murdered woman’s shy granddaughter hires Reed to clear her name and find the real killer. To complicate matters, romantic sparks fly between her and Cal, Reed’s computer-geek best friend.

Get it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

Lovely Night to Die: A Special Forces Operation Alpha Kindle World novella.

A deadly assassin must carry out the assignment to assassinate the President of the United States—a mission sanctioned from inside the United States government. If he doesn’t do it, the woman he loves will die.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Last Deadly Lie

The chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Coming in 2018

Toby Neal

Wired Dawn — Paradise Crime Book 5

Security specialist Sophie Ang goes off the grid on Kaua’I to save a young boy, uncovering dark secrets of the jungle as she does so. FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott straps on her Manolos and wades into help, but will they be in time?

Read more about it on the author’s website.

Emily Kimelman

Flock of Wolves — Sydney Rye Book 10

Continue the adventure with Sydney Rye and Blue.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

 

Raine Thomas

Driving Tempo — House of Archer Book 3

A New Adult contemporary rockin’ romance that follows the pulse-pounding Imperfect Harmony and Unsteady Rhythm.

Read more about this on the author’s website.

 

Alan McDermott

A new thriller that will feature readers’ favorite characters from the Tom Gray series and Trojan.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

BestSelling Reads authors are all hard at work on more books that are sure to join your favorites list. Keep coming back to this blog for new announcements about titles, release dates and free previews.

Better yet, subscribe to get these updates in your email.

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Gord Downie: A poet America needs to get to know

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Canadian Press

Last week, an iconic performer and poet passed away.

And about a year ago, one of BestSelling Reads’ founders, the multi-talented Kathleen Valentine passed away suddenly.

Kathleen was in charge of the Monday Musings for a long time, and she was known to publish the words of significant poets on this blog — like Bob Dylan, for example.

Gord Downie, the front man and the principal lyricist for the Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. It was something every Canadian knew was coming, and yet something, in the words of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, that we all wished would not happen and that still hurt deeply when it did.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the career of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip was that they never really broke through in the U.S. market, unlike many Canadian musicians like Céline Dion, Bryan Adams, Jonie Mitchell or Shania Twain. And yet, perhaps it’s Downie’s poetry that citizens of the U.S. need to hear.

In the spirit of Kathleen Valentine, then I’d like to present some words of Gord Downie that perhaps American (that is, citizens and denizens of the U.S.A. — after all, I’m and American, too, as are Mexican President Peña Nieto and Brazilian poet Braulio Tavares).

At The Hundredth Meridian

Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains beginDriving down a corduroy road
Weeds standing shoulder high
Ferris wheel is rusting
Off in the distance

At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Left alone to get gigantic
Hard, huge and haunted
A generation so much dumber than it’s parents
Came crashing through the window

A raven strains along the line of the road
carrying muddy old skull
The wires whistle their approval
Off down the distance

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin

I remember, I remember Buffalo
And I remember Hengelo
It would seem to me
I remember every single fucking thing I know

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don’t want to be
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (baby, you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin.

Do you know some poets that Americans need to learn about? Leave a comment.
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Monday musings: The easy and the hard parts of being a writer

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Image credit: Denise Krebs, Creative Commons.

I have heard people say “I don’t like writing; I like having written.” I like both. I like being able to look over something I have written and feeling satisfied with the outcome. But I also very much like the practice of writing itself.

Maybe I’m like Porthos from The Three Musketeers, who liked to talk to hear his own voice. I like expressing myself. I like to be able to tell stories or get ideas across to other people.

I even like re-writing my work. When I was younger, I found I had no patience in re-reading my old stuff, especially trade journalism. Somehow, I could not tolerate reading what I had just written. But I quickly learned that I had to re-read, so that I could re-write and avoid the worst criticism from editors.

I also learned the importance of outlining. The hard way.

When I began my journalistic career, I would start an article by writing what I imagined was a good opening sentence, and then tried going from there. Eventually, I learned to delete that opening sentence when the story was done. What I was left with was something half-decent.

But after having to delete successive drafts of a long article with a deadline looming over me, I realized I would be further ahead with an outline. And over the years, I became a great proponent of outlines.

I like to tell myself that my writing has improved over the years. One clue that supports that ideas is that it’s now easier to reread my writing. I can re-read stories that I wrote a few years ago without shuddering. I find I actually enjoy re-writing my work, and I know how important it is for every writer to re-read and re-write their work before sharing it with anyone. I’m sure you’ve found some writing that makes you think “Didn’t this writer edit at all? Did they read it once?”

I find great satisfaction when I can turn a difficult or awkward sentence into something clear. Here’s the trick: don’t try to salvage your work by changing a few words here and there, or moving a clause from the end of the sentence to the beginning. Start over. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to say? What result or reaction do I want from the reader?” By going back to the basic question and discarding everything you tried before, you’ll get a much better result.

The hard part

Wikimedia Commons

The hardest part for me as a writer is the dealing with the dread that I won’t find an audience.

As a journalist, writing articles commissioned by editors, you know you have an audience. When I was writing for Canadian Printer magazine at the beginning of my career, I knew that my audience was 30,000 Canadian graphic arts professionals. When I wrote articles for Macworld magazine, I knew the audience was around 300,000.

But now that I’ve turned to fiction, I know that, in addition to creating a story, I have to create an audience. That’s far harder, or at least a different skill set. While I have learned how to write, I have never been good at selling or at gathering a lot of attention for myself.

That fear is what has held me back from publishing fiction for such a long time. I have had the basic ideas for my novels for, in some cases, decades now. I have chapters and chapters of work in various hard drives, binders and drawers. I have not finished them nor submitted them to the wider world simply because I have been afraid of rejection.

Obviously, I have conquered that fear. I now have three stories on Smashwords and Amazon, and I’m working at getting my stuff listed in iBooks.

I am learning what it takes to build an audience. I’ve heard about the importance of the “platform” for the independent author, and I’m doing what I can to build one. I’ve increased the number of Facebook friends I have, joined Google Plus, created Circles, and, of course, joined Twitter. I’ve been blogging much more than I ever did before.

So far, it has not translated into many sales of my stories. I have seen some sales come immediately after a good review gets posted, though.

Learning how to build an audience would turn the worst part of being a writer to the best thing, for me. I hold onto hope it’s a skill I will learn.

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