Monday musings: If the story turns you on, write about it

Share

By Caleb Pirtle III

This post is a re-blog from Venture Galleries.

How could my mystery and thriller novels be called historical fiction? They happened in my lifetime.

It appears that we have become locked into a publishing universe that is built on genre fiction, and the genres are changing just about every time the leaves on the trees either grow, turn green, become red and gold, or fall off. These days, it’s not out of the question to find books that are labeled paranormal and historical romantic suspense, a mystery and thriller with time travel. Confuses me.

I thought I wrote thrillers. And mysteries. That’s what I tried to do. That’s what I like to read. My bookshelves and my mind are filled with the fiction of Robert Ludlum, James Lee Burke, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Lee Child, Jack Higgins, Ken Follett, and the boys.

But here’s the problem.

I am fascinated with the 1930s and 1940s. I have written three Ambrose Lincoln thrillers and have a fourth ready for release. All of them are set during World War II: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark – with Place of Skulls waiting in the wings.

It was a glorious era. It was a mysterious era. So many rumors running rampant. So many mysteries lurking in the background. Too much intrigue to know the difference between fact and fiction, truth and contradiction.

It was the dawn of intelligence agencies whose operatives worked in the shadows and behind enemy lines. They were in places where danger lurked around every corner and behind every door. The agents of the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and Germany had their only little private wars going. Winner take all. Not everyone came home. Not everyone was supposed to.

Besides, the era had the greatest villain of all. He was a madman. He engineered a Holocaust. He wore a mustache, made fierce, fiery speeches, and was known to the world as Adolph Hitler. His was the face of evil.

And, of course, Russia had its own madman, Joseph Stalin. He was our friend then. He was our own personal bad guy. Stalin became our enemy as soon as the flames of atomic horror rose in a mushroom cloud above the cities of Japan. His face was just as evil.

We had what he desperately wanted. We had The Bomb. Stalin began building one of his own. And a war turned Cold.

Want to write a thriller? You can’t find a better era.

That’s what I thought. But now I’ve found that I haven’t written any thrillers at all. It was a grand era all right. It was the wrong era.

Now everyone wants to call my novels historical fiction. How could they be historical? They happened in my lifetime.

I was only a small child during World War II, but my father worked in a military plant that built bombs, and I heard him and my mother talking in hushed tones at night about men I didn’t know killing men I didn’t know in places I never heard of.

I was fascinated with what was going on. I still am. But it’s historical or so they say, and they’re probably right.

I could write about the present, and maybe I will. To me, however, there may be mysteries in a world that relies on computers and the digital speed of the Internet and cell phones, but there is little intrigue. There is little suspense.

Suspense is when the good guy is cornered in an alley on a dark street in Berlin with Gestapo agents trailing right behind, and he can’t find a telephone to warn someone that the German storm troopers will attack at dawn.

Where is a phone that works? How can he find it? Will he die before he gets there? And he knows he can’t escape to freedom until he finds that damn phone.

Now that’s suspense.

If he whips out a cell phone and makes that call, it’s ho-hum and time to spread a little more peanut butter on my bread since I know for sure everything is going to work out fine. Make the call. Look up the GPS coordinates on his hand-held computer. And hitch a ride on the helicopter that’s coming in under the cover of darkness.

It may be a really good story. It’s not the story I want to tell.

I want an operative who lives or dies on his own daring, wits, and ingenuity. I don’t want his fate decided by email or Twitter. So I guess I’ll keep writing historical fiction.

And I guess I’ll keep calling the books thrillers. Why change now?

A great writer, J. E. Fishman, penned a piece for Venture Galleries, and his advice for authors was this: “Write what turns you on.”

He’s right.

I do.

And so the battle rages on.

Share

Monday musings: Paper or electronic books?

Share

The bus is a great place to observe people, to watch how they spend their time when they’re waiting to get to where they want or need to go. While many just stare at nothing, or try to sleep, most attempt to fill their time.

Most of those who are doing something besides sitting on the bus are using an electronic device. There are people of all ages using their smart phones to talk, check email, text or most often play a game. Others read Kindles, Kobos or iPads. In the mornings, I often see students finishing an assignment on their laptop computers. It’s rare to see someone reading a newspaper, which was the most common pastime when I began my career.

Occasionally as I ride into and home from the city, I see someone reading a book. An honest-to-god paperback or hardcover.

In the environment where we focus on, chat about, read and write e-books, it’s sometimes surprising to remember that people still buy, read and share paper books.

There’s a lady I meet and chat with occasionally, when we’re on the bus together. When I showed her a sample of the paperback edition of my latest book, Walking Out of War, she said “I love a real paperback book. It’s something you can touch, you can hold.”

I had to agree with her. E-books are the sensible choice for commuters: a Kindle or a Kobo is lighter than a big paperback, and the batteries last for days. You can have any number of books on them and they never get heavier. The type never fades and if it’s too small for my aging eyes, I can make it bigger.

But there is something about the tactile experience of holding a book that triggers the emotions in a way an e-book just cannot. As a writer, I love having a print book that I wrote. And I really regret that my contract with Amazon does not allow me to produce print editions of my Kindle World books.

Print has its advantages over e-books. You don’t need to charge up a book to read it. You don’t have to put your paperback away when your plane it taking off or landing. (What is that really about, anyway?)

As a writer, another advantage I find that print has over e-books is that I have greater control over the visual presentation. That means I can choose the type fonts I want, the page layout and so much more. With e-books, you’re limited to the fonts and layouts the publishing platform, whether Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble or whatever, have.

However, it is more challenging and expensive to produce a physical, paper book. Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram’s Lightning Source provide web platforms that make it easier, but if you want a professional-looking product, you need to know what you’re doing.

In my case, it helps that I’ve worked in the printing and publishing world for most of my career. I’ve learned about some of the little things that make a big difference between professional and amateurish. And there are plenty of books available that obviously have been produced by people who may be talented writers, but don’t know squat about publishing.

I believe that professional appearance makes a difference to the reader. Many of the little details, like how big to make the margin on a 5 x 8 page, where the page numbers (folios, in publishing language) go, which way quotation marks should slant, how to set up facing pages, how to select typefaces—all evolved because they enhance the reading experience. They make it easier to read the text, to navigate and to follow the story.

While readers may not appreciate every nuance, at least subconsciously they’re affected by them. The difference between a professionally produce page and one done by an amateur is as obvious as the difference between a professional musician and the tone-deaf kid next door.

Creative Commons

These are all from the writer’s perspective, though. I’d like to hear from readers. I know that many people who follow this blog read e-books—some of BSR’s members publish only in electronic format. But which do you like better, electronic or paper? Why? Which do you prefer to take the beach, or read in bed? What do you take when you commute?

Leave your answers in the Comments.

Share

Monday Musings: What’s the difference between memory and history?

Share

Image source: Pinterest

History, the stuff we’re taught in schools, read in books and watch on screens, is supposed to be the official, collective memory of our culture—or at least part of it. But when you talk to people who have direct experience in something mentioned in the history textbooks, you’ll often find context and texture that somehow get missed.

The Second World War certainly has its share of historical record and analysis. I cannot begin to count the numbers of books, articles, reports, films and more about it, in fiction and non-fiction.

But in talking with someone who was there at the time, I found tiny details that others somehow missed.

One memory that inspired me to write my Eastern Front trilogy came from Maurice, my father-in-law, who was drafted by the Soviet Red Army in 1941. He told me that as an officer, he had good leather boots, but the enlisted men had only cloth boots, which wore out as the army retreated before the German invasion of Operation Barbarossa. When the cold weather came, the Red Army had no replacements for those boots (among a lot of other shortages), and the men had to wrap their feet with anything they could find, like old newspapers.

I did a lot of research for the trilogy: reading books, articles and reports, watching films and, of course, interviewing my father-in-law, who passed away in 2003. Yes, it took me a long time to write those books. But I never came across any references to the Soviet soldiers’ boots wearing out. This little fact led to my title for the first volume in the trilogy: Army of Worn Soles.

Under the Nazi Heel, book two in the trilogy, describes the Ukrainian resistance to the brutal German occupation of 1942–1945. One striking story from my father-in-law was how he and others in the underground resistance army would sneak into the rail yards at night and switch the destination cards on the boxcars. I told him that seemed more like a prank than a resistance effort, but he explained that the cards determined where the boxcar’s contents would be sent. So a boxcar filled with ammunition would not reach its intended destination, which hampered the enemy’s supply efforts.

Image source: Wikipedia

I still did not think much of this until I read William Craig’s Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, upon which the movie with Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Joseph Fiennes was loosely based. In the book (this did not appear in the movie) the German 6th Army, hemmed in by the advancing Soviets and running short of supplies, received a boxcar full of crates of condoms instead of ammunition. A nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. Well, not when the enemy is literally about to overrun you.

I just published the third book in the trilogy: Walking Out of War, which deals with the last year of the war and its aftermath. A memory prominent to Maurice was how much better the equipment and the food were in the Red Army compared to the beginning of the war. That’s mostly because by 1944, the USSR was getting a lot of supplies from the Allies, especially the U.S.A.

Along with weapons, ammunition and 152,000 trucks, the U.S. sent tonnes of food to the USSR. Maurice told me how all the “boys”—the soldiers—love the American canned ham. “It was very tasty.”

Source: Wikipedia

After the war, in a United Nations Displaced Persons camp, Maurice saw the cooks from the U.S. Army throwing away fat from the outside of hams. When he asked why, the cook shrugged and said “We don’t eat that stuff.”

That was a godsend for hungry refugees. Maurice took as much as he could to the refugees, who would use the ham fat for various recipes. It may not to be to the taste of us in the prosperous 21st century West, but it kept a lot of people from hunger in 1946.

Little details like that make history come to life for me. It’s crucial to preserve these memories that don’t make it into the history textbooks, because they make the grand sweep of history immediate to those of us who weren’t there.

What do you think about the difference between memory and history? What specific details do you think the history books have missed? Let me know in the Comments.

Share

Meet the author Monday: Claude Bouchard

Share

A couple of months ago, Bestselling Reads’ fearless leader, Scott Bury, asked the group’s members to answer a few questions. Some did, may didn’t and Scott has recently moved into “veiled threat” mode with the procrastinators. Such a tactic usually would not impress me but Scott does live a mere two hour drive from my home so, here we go!

How many books have you written?

I’ve written fifteen books to date with my sixteenth currently in the works.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered an instalment of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered part of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

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

For one, they’ve gotten older. For whatever reason, I’ve always dated my books and kept up with the years over time so my characters have aged along with all of us. Their thinking has also changed along the way as they’ve adapted to various situations. Without going into detail, Vigilante, the series opener, dealt with a serial killer involved in pure vigilantism. However, as of book 2, The Consultant, a clandestine government group was introduced, thus formalizing (or legalizing) unconventional methods of dealing with crime. It’s been interesting and fun to have these government assassins intermingling and developing professional relationships and friendships with homicide cops.

How has your style changed over that same period?

My basic voice and style have remained relatively intact. I’ve always been fairly concise with little use for fluffy fillers to increase word count and that hasn’t changed. My writing flows more nicely and is less choppy today than it was in my first books several years back.

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

I’ve rarely used outlines, at least not in the sense of mapping out an entire storyline before getting into actually writing it. I will sometimes quickly outline the next handful of scenes as ideas come to mind, in order to respect the timeline of events and, more so, to avoid forgetting those ideas. What has certainly helped over time is the Internet, making required research much easier and efficient than when I wrote Vigilante in 1995. As for character creation, if something needs to be done and I have nobody to do it, I create someone. Travel has allowed meeting people from all over and has certainly facilitated building realistic worlds. In fact, some of my books were set in places I’ve visited, including Paris, Vietnam and the Caribbean.

Is there a particular time or place you like for writing?

Afternoons are when I do most of my writing, though that can vary on occasion. Unless I’m traveling, I write in our study with my trusty desktop and dual monitors. The one exception was The First Sixteen, a prequel novella and the ninth in my series, which I initially wrote in Pages on my iPad.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

The weird place inside my head which is fed by daily events stemming from all over the world.

Connect with Claude Bouchard

Share

Monday musings: Advice for aspiring and experienced authors

Share

By Dawn Torrens

I am a full-time author and an occasional headline reviewer for BBC Radio WM 95.6 FM. I have written and published 14 books in various romantic genres over the past six years, including the bestselling Amelia’s Story.

Inspiration

My inspiration comes from many different areas of my life. It could be a dream I had the night before, which sows the seed of a story in my mind. One of my books, Broken Wings, was born from such a dream! I may read a news article, or take a simple walk in the park and something I witness can spark an idea for my next story.

Inspiration can come from anywhere or anything if you walk through life with your eyes wide open. I pay attention to my surroundings and current affairs issues. All of which provide me with inspiration.

Advice for aspiring writers

My first piece of advice would be, NEVER GIVE UP. If you have a dream, then pursue it regardless of what others think. Remember it is your dream, not theirs.

Secondly, no matter how good you think you are at editing your own work, always hire a professional editor and proofreader. Your work will one day be up for public viewing and you want those all-important reviews to be in favour of you, not against you. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. Remember, it is your reputation on the line so you want your work to be as word perfect as it can be.

Thirdly, good writers are also avid readers too. Read and read as often as you can. See how other successful authors form their stories, introduce their characters and back stories. Pay attention to the flow and movement of their story. You will be surprised how much you can learn yourself as an aspiring writer by reading great authors’ work.

Promotion: advice is for new and aspiring authors

Ah… Promotion, promotion, promotion—very important. If people don’t know about your book or books, how will you sell them?

Use your Facebook fan page to offer monthly giveaways to your fans. If you do not have one, create one now, even if your book is not yet published. Get the word out about your debut novel, create interest before it is published and get people excited about it.

People love giveaways, so offer a special new release giveaway to help generate interest. This will encourage word to spread about your book and your author name.

Your author name is your brand. That is what you have to build on. Offer your Kindle book up for free occasionally (you need to be enrolled into Amazon’s KDP programme for this) or reduce the price to 99p or 99c.

There are many book promotional sites out there, which have thousands of avid readers on their mailing lists just waiting to be notified about discounted and free books. This is a great way to get your unheard of book and name out there into the big world. Sites such as BookBub have millions of subscribers. They are very picky and you may have to be patient and submit your book several times over a period of time before they accept you. They are costly though, so you would need to budget for their promotions, but trust me they are so worth it and can get your book into the hands of 20, 30 and 40 thousand readers in one day.

There are other smaller and cheaper sites too, such as Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, Booksends, Ereader News Today, Digital Book Today, Kindle Promos, Armadillo Books, Pixel of Ink, Indie Book Today, Adnetwork, Venture Galleries and many more. Look them up and familiarise yourself with them and their submission process and costs. This will help you once you are published and prepare you for your first promotion.

Also, set up your own website—this is your very own promotional platform. Make it interesting and not too cluttered. People want to be able to navigate your site with ease, otherwise they will not visit it again. The main important thing to remember is you have to speculate to accumulate, so budget for promotional costs monthly based on what you can afford, even if it is as little at £10 per month.

Make sure you promote, whether big or small as you need to grow your brand, and get the word out about your brand—YOUR NAME!

Research

Research is so important. You have to know what you are talking about. Because if you don’t, some reader somewhere will pick up on it.

I do tons of research for each and every book I write. If there is a medical condition that my characters get and I do not know much about it, then I research it to death. I also talk to people I know that may suffer from the same condition to get clarity.

I spend a third of my time researching. I love it and gain much knowledge from it too. I am learning about things all the time that I otherwise would not know about such as, places, medical conditions, trauma units, investigations and the process of all these subjects. I also have many methods of research. I try to write about things I have much knowledge about, however, when you write a lot of books you do have to broaden your horizon.

Characters based on real people

Ha,ha… Oh indeed, yes! I know so many interesting characters in my real life that occasionally one or two of them make their way into my books!

Favourite pastimes

My favourite pastimes are jogging, walking, and spending lots of time with my daughter and family. I take part in a lot of charity runs at least four times a year, for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and cancer research, through organisations like, Race for Life and The Great Morrison’s Run. Jogging clears my head and I come up with some great ideas while I am out jogging.

Cover design

I have two cover designers, they are both incredible and each of them has their own special area of expertise: Ares Jun and David C. Cassidy. They are truly amazing cover designers and I would highly recommend them. They are the face of my stories and they convey through their designs perfectly what my stories are about.

My latest book

My latest release is called Amelia the Mother: A Pocket Full of Innocence, the third book in the Amelia series. It tells of Amelia’s emotional journey, showing what motherhood means to her.

Prior to that, I published Forbidden last March. This is a romantic suspense novel, which also touches on real-life happenings. This book was a challenge for me in many ways as I was writing about two characters from two entirely different cultures who fall in love against their families’ wishes. Jessica is white British, and Ajay is Hindu. The obstacles their parents place in their path is incredible. The parents are both strict, traditional Hindus and strict traditional Christians. Both sets of parents do not believe in interracial marriages of relationships of any kind. This makes the protagonists’ relationship very difficult. There are death, near-death and tragic circumstances along the way in this emotionally charged love story against the odds.

Come get to know me

I was born in Yorkshire, England. I currently live in Birmingham. I am married with an eight-year-old daughter, who is my entire world! My very first book, Amelia’s Story has inspired people all over the world and has been downloaded almost 400,000 times worldwide.

I am a prolific writer and in 2013, my works were recognised by BBC Radio WM, where I gave my first live interview on air in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Since that interview, I became a regular on the show, lending my time as a headline reviewer once a week, discussing the day’s headlines with the presenter.

I live by the motto, “The child first and foremost.”

Visit my website, My books & I, and my Facebook author page, and follow me on  Twitter @Torrenstp.

Share

Monday musings: My literary evolution

Share

By Elise Stokes

How have I evolved as a writer over the last five years, Scott Bury asked me. It’s a timely question, as I’m about to publish my fifth book YA book, Cassidy Jones & the Eternal Flame. So I’ve decided to answer his questions here.

How many books have you written?

Five—all in Cassidy Jones Adventures. The first installment, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, was published in 2010.

Written for a young adult audience, the series follows the life of teenage superhero Cassidy Jones. Each installment introduces a new mystery with plenty of pulse-pounding action, while continuing ongoing storylines.

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

Cassidy has become more comfortable in her own skin and a powerful force to be reckoned with, though she has retained her naïve charm. She is fierce and loyal to a fault.

Emery Phillips’s “human-ness” leaks out more. He is still a Junior James Bond, but the reader is allowed glimpses behind his self-possessed veneer. As Cassidy sums Emery up in Eternal Flame: “Standing before me was a kid who didn’t have anything figured out any better than I did.”

How has your style changed over that same period?

As with any creative endeavor, the more you do it, the better you get. I don’t know if my writing style has changed per se. My skill has improved.

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?

My writing process is as it has always been: chaotic. I don’t outline, or even think deeply about my stories. I just write and see what happens. Ideas and characters leap into my head as I’m writing, and sometimes I need to hit reverse and back way up, and sometimes something truly awesome develops because I wasn’t set on a particular course. I wouldn’t recommend this “free-spirited” approach. It isn’t efficient or productive, and it’s rather stressful to be frank, but for whatever reason it works for me.

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 when I have free time, which there never seems enough of. My brain is rendered to mush in the evenings, so I have to carve out time to write in the early morning or throughout the day between work and household tasks.

How do you create new characters?

I don’t know. They’re just suddenly there, and I learn more about their complexities with time.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

Usually from an interesting conversation with my husband. In fact, he planted the seed for Cassidy Jones. Around eight years ago, we were brainstorming different story concepts, and he said, “You know what would be cool? A boy with enhanced senses.” I responded, “You know what would be even cooler? A girl with enhanced senses.”

Cassidy Jones’ and Emery Phillips’s latest adventure, Cassidy Jones & the Eternal Flame, will be out this spring. In the meantime, visit my website to find out more about this exciting series.

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence.

The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous, and Cassidy Jones and the Eternal Flame are the first five books in the series.

Visit her:

And follow her on Twitter @CassidyJonesAdv.

 

Share

Monday musings: Writer—a creator or a narrator?

Share

By Samreen Ahsan

I’m Samreen Ahsan and I’m the author of multiple award-winning books. Many people who didn’t know me as an author, or who knew me before I started writing have asked me what inspired me to write. Some people also ask how do I develop a story in my mind—is it the start or the end I write first? When you write, is there a specific time of the day or an entire day dedicated to the writing?

Honestly speaking, there are no specific answers to these questions. For me, the rule of writing is: there is NO rule of writing. You don’t create a story—the story comes to you. It’s like a revelation. It can come to you anytime, anywhere. There are some places and events that help you strengthen your storyline, but of course, there is just one thing, one tiny ball of thoughts you need to prick, and boom—the story starts to flow in your mind. The characters talk to you, haunt you in your dreams, stalk you everywhere, asking you to write and write and write. You cannot concentrate anywhere unless you listen to those characters and write whatever they want you to write.

When a reader asks me why certain character acts in such a way, or when someone leaves a review saying, it should have been this or that way—I do not have answers for those comments. The story I wrote is how my characters came to me, the way they behaved, the way they felt. I write whatever they want me to write. It does sound like paranormal activity, and I’m sure many authors would agree how much their characters haunt them, and keep haunting them unless they finish their story. It may sound like a curse, but I find it a blessing.

A Silent Prayer coverIn this way, a writer is never alone. She has the characters to travel everywhere with her. There is an unseen world, parallel to our world, which we, as writers, carry in our heads silently. We see those characters talking to each other, we observe their behaviors, and narrate it.

I love to travel and I always imagine my characters while discovering new places, always thinking What if this particular character were to visit this place. I try to see these places from their point of view.

My first book, A Silent Prayer, is set in city of Toronto, where I live. The places mentioned in the story are based on my personal experience. The plot is based on mythical creatures, the Jinn mentioned in Holy Quran, and part of my faith is also believing in their existence. For some, it may sound like believing in vampires or dragons, but this is how it is. There is no explanation when it comes to faith. You either believe it, or you don’t. Religion does not really provide you any logic.

My second story, Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is a romantic fantasy, set in both modern and medieval England. If you ask me what the inspiration was: just like my main female character, I am also obsessed with castles and palaces. I always wanted to write a story that revolves around a haunted castle but I couldn’t prick that tiny ball of thoughts for some time. Then out of nowhere, I had a dream and I pricked that ball. I caught that one single thread and kept on pulling, until the story was fully developed, and the characters came out of their shells.

I have written romance novels so far but I don’t think this is the only genre I’ll write in the future. It depends on what kind of character comes into my mind and what kind of incident triggers the story.

There are some characters in my stories that change drastically. When I write about them, I am also surprised at how much they have developed from the start of the story to the end. The entire story doesn’t come at once. It comes in phases and sometimes what you’ve thought at initial stages, the story takes a totally different turn when you actually write it. It’s those characters that argue with you and want their way and you have no other choice than to listen to your characters and let them lead the story.

For me, I’m just the narrator for my characters, helping them fabricate their story, and showing it to the world.

For some information about me, visit my BestSelling Reads Author page. For my books, please visit my website: http://www.samreenahsan.com. You can also find me on my

And follow me on Twitter @samauthorcanada.

Share

Monday musings: The method behind my madness

Share

By Raine Thomas

With pre-orders for my latest release, Imperfect Harmony (House of Archer #1), just going live, I’ve been reflecting on the time and effort it took to begin this new series. My readers are embarking on this rocker romance journey with me, and many of them are curious about my writing process and how the House of Archer series came about. Since other BSR authors have taken the plunge and answered specific questions about their books and writing styles, today I thought I’d take a turn.

Here’s the scoop:

How many books have you written?

Imperfect Harmony is my thirteenth published novel.

Please explain your various series and standalone books.

My Estilorian series is YA fantasy romance and currently includes seven books. The first three are the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy, followed by the Firstborn Trilogy, and then the latest book, Deceive. This is one of my most popular series. It has won multiple awards and the first three books have been optioned for film.

I also have a New Adult Sci-Fi series called the Ascendant series. It won an award for Best Sci-Fi Book and is right up there with the Estilorian series in terms of popularity.

My single-most bestselling book, however, is For Everly, a standalone contemporary baseball romance. It has a companion novel, also a standalone, called Meant for Her, which is written in the same setting and has appearances by the characters in For Everly.

For now, though, my focus is on my latest series, House of Archer, a rock star contemporary romance series that I’ve loved writing! Imperfect Harmony is book one.

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

What I did in my Estilorian series is switch the main characters within each book. All of the characters remain in the stories and the world, but switching the main characters gives me more flexibility with growing the series. In the Ascendant series, the two main characters grow together, overcoming many challenges and becoming stronger for that.

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

I have definitely fine-tuned my writing process. My first books were written with loose outlines. Now I tend to create very detailed ones. The outlines might take me a couple of months to complete, but then the writing is often done within a few weeks.

What about the way you create characters or build worlds?

This process hasn’t changed for me. I always begin my stories by creating detailed character sketches, which includes their world. I use images I find online, research settings, and brainstorm on personality traits. It’s all a ton of fun to me!

When do you write? Is there a time of day, or a period during the week?

Since I work full-time, most of my writing is done in the evenings and on weekends. My family often has to drag me away from my computer to get time with me, which can be a hardship on all of us. Fortunately, they’re very understanding and supportive!

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

As long as I have my laptop and a pair of headphones to listen to Spotify, I’m good to go!

~    ~     ~

Care to check out Imperfect Harmony, the first book in my House of Archer series? You can pre-order it on Amazon now:

And you can connect with me on:

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Tumblr  |  Instagram  |  YouTube  |  Goodreads  |Linkedin  |  Tsu

Share

Monday musings: peering through the fog

Share

Misty Foggy Road Mystery Fog

As I drove through an extremely foggy morning last week, I thought of all the people who try to make predictions about the future at the beginning of every year. It struck me that it’s like trying to tell which way an unfamiliar road will curve when you can only see 30 metres ahead.

If there’s one thing that 2016 taught me, it’s to keep my predictions to myself. But I have read a number of others’ forecasts for the directions and the curves the writing game will take in the next year.

These predictions may seem pretty safe, but what’s interesting is the way they fit together to have an impact on readers as well as writers.

Amazon’s dominance will grow

Amazon has been the number one retailer of books (and a whole lot of other stuff, too) for years, and this market dominance is only going to increase.

Retail sales are also suffering, and “brick and mortar” retailers are losing market share to online retailers—like Amazon, but also to others, even their own online operations. Barnes & Noble reported its 2016 holiday sales were 9.1 percent lower than in 2015. The company attributed that to lower traffic in its stores. In contrast, online sales rose 2 percent.

Other bookstore chains are struggling, and are devoting more and more floor space to things that are not books: music and movie disks, decorations, novelties, even food.

The only way for independent bookstores to survive is by specializing.

Amazon has opened some brick-and-mortar stores of its own, and while it has enabled authors to publish their own books for years, it has started a number of publishing imprints of its own, such as Thomas & Mercer (the publisher of one of BestSelling Reads’ members, Alan McDermott).

More market share will go to e-books

While paper will never go away, e-books are taking up more market share. As of 2016, the estimates in the U.S. were that print books represent 39% of book units sold, and e-books 61%.

The ease and economy of publishing e-books is one of the factors behind the staggering growth in the numbers of self-publishing authors.

More writers will self-publish

Some writers call this “increased competition,” but that term doesn’t quite capture the reality of writers. Books are not like cars or washing machines—we read them in a matter of days, usually, and move on to the next book.

Restaurant cluster in Paris

The situation is more comparable to restaurants. Restaurant owners are smart to cluster together, because more options bring more customers. Diners love to come to a street crowded with restaurants, and will come back many times to try all the choices available.

Readers are the same. After all, a traditional bookstore brings together thousands of different authors, and readers prefer bigger bookstores with more choice.

Writers will band together

Another prediction I read was that authors will work together to increase their audiences. That’s interesting, because working with other authors is how I began self-publishing fiction. I find my experience with BestSelling Reads, and another group I belong to called Independent Authors International, to be hugely rewarding—in terms finding other great writers, learning how to improve my writing, as well as finding new readers.

The big challenge for writers is not to out-compete other writers, not to sell books (although that’s a nice thing to accomplish), but to learn how to engage with audiences. That’s what a story is: a connection, an experience shared by reader and writer.

For readers

When I was young, I cannot begin to estimate the time I spent hanging around in bookstores, looking at all the titles I had to choose from. Readers today can spend hours just perusing books, trying to decide which one to open next. That’s why sites like Goodreads and Library Thing are so popular—they help readers decide which book to read next, to find good books in the e-mountains of words available.

I promised I would not make any predictions for 2017, but I will tell you about one other trend I noticed over 2016: the increasing number of services and systems for sale to help authors sell more books by learning how to tag their titles on Amazon, set up mailing lists to readers, send enquiries to book reviewers, build platforms and more. “This is the secret that bestselling authors use.”

As I said, no predictions. Just a warning: some of these services and subscriptions are very expensive, and none of them guarantees a writer will sell more books.

No predictions, but a question to the readers out there: how do you want to engage with writers? Answer in the Comments.

 

Share

Monday musings: Writer—a creator or a narrator?

Share

The Muses Melpomene (tragedy), Erato (love poetry), and Polyhymnia (sacred poetry, hymns), by Eustache Le Sueur. Source: Wikipedia

 

I’m Samreen Ahsan and I’m the author of multiple award-winning books. Many people who didn’t know me as an author, or who knew me before I started writing, have asked me what inspired me to write. Some people also ask how I develop a story in my mind; is it the start or the end I write first? When you write, is there a specific time of the day or an entire day dedicated to the writing?

Honestly speaking, there are no specific answers to these questions. For me, the rule of writing is: there is NO rule of writing. You don’t create a story—the story comes to you. It’s like a revelation. It can come to you anytime, anywhere. There are some places and events that help you strengthen your storyline but of course, there is just one thing, one tiny ball of thoughts you need to prick, and boom—the story starts to flow in your mind. The characters talk to you, haunt you in your dreams, stalk you everywhere, asking you to write and write and write. You cannot concentrate anywhere unless you listen to those characters and write whatever they want you to write.

When a reader asks me why a certain character acts in such a way, or someone leaves a review saying: it should have been this or that way—I do not have answers for those comments. The story is how my characters came to me, the way they behaved, the way they felt. I write whatever they want me to write. It does sound like a paranormal activity and I’m sure many of the authors would agree how much the characters haunt you, and keep haunting you unless you finish their story. It may sound like a curse, but I find it a blessing.

In this way, a writer is never alone. She has the characters to travel everywhere with her. There is an unseen world, parallel to our world, which we, as writers, carry in our heads silently. We see those characters talking to each other, we observe their behaviors, and narrate it.

I love to travel and I always imagine my characters while discovering the new places, always thinking what if this particular character visit this place. I try to see these places from their point of view.

My first book, A Silent Prayer is set in city of Toronto, where I live. The places mentioned in the story are based on my personal experience. The plot is based on mythical creatures, the Jinn mentioned in Holy Quran, and part of my faith is also believing in their existence. For some, it may sound like believing in vampires or dragons but this is how it is. There is no explanation when it comes to faith. You either believe it, or you don’t. Religion does not really provide you any logic.

My second story, Once Upon A [Stolen] Time is a romantic fantasy, set in both modern and medieval England. If you ask me, what was the inspiration: just like my main female character, I am also obsessed with castles and palaces. I always wanted to write a story that revolves around a haunted castle but I couldn’t prick that tiny ball of thoughts for sometime. Then out of nowhere, I had a dream and I pricked that ball, that one single thread you keep on pulling, until your story is fully developed, characters coming out of their shells.

I have written romance novels so far, but I don’t think this is the only genre I’d write in the future. It depends what kind of character comes into my mind and what kind of incident triggers the story.

There are some characters in my stories that change drastically and when I write about them, I also get surprised by how much they develop from the start to the end of the story. The entire story doesn’t come in one go. It comes in phases. Sometimes, despite what you thought at initial stages, the story takes a totally different turn when you actually write it. It’s those characters that argue with you and want their way and you have no other choice than to listen to your characters and let them lead the story.

I’m just the narrator for my characters. I help them fabricate their story, and show it to the world.

Samreen Ahsan is the author of The Prayer Series: A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, as well as a new series beginning with Once Upon A [Stolen] Time. To find out more about her and her books, visit her:

Share