Monday musings: Advice for aspiring and experienced authors

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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.

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Caleb Pirtle joins BestSelling Reads

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Prolific, bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III has re-joined BestSelling Reads, the association of professional, independent authors. One of the first members of the group, Pirtle is returning in 2017.

The author of more than 70 books, Pirtle has been a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was the travel editor of Southern Living Magazine for ten years. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than 25 years.

A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, Pirtle was the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Since then, several of his books and his magazine articles have received national and regional awards.

His fiction includes the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of Dark. The fourth book in the series, Place of Skulls, will be released in the spring of 2017. His latest novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

He has also written three teleplays that were produced on major networks.

Pirtle is also the author of a number of non-fiction titles. Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk recounts the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield, and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow is the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II.

His coffee-table book, XIT: The American Cowboy, was the third-bestselling art book in publishing history.

With his wife, Linda, Caleb Pirtle founded Venture Galleries, an author’s promotional platform.

You can find more about Caleb on his BestSelling Reads author page or his Amazon Author page.

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Thursday teaser: Scorch Road

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An exciting collaboration of two BestSelling authors:
Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

Elizabeth

“You’re the whole cold transport chain, Elizabeth. Don’t take your eyes off that thing until you get it to the CDC in Washington.” Dr. Fellerman stepped away, returning to his side of the big wooden desk. “There are ten vials of the isolated virus in there. And that case will keep it cold for at least three days.” He flopped into his chair and it rolled back a few inches. Dr. Fellerman closed his eyes. “It’s too late for me, but there are still a lot of people to save.”

Elizabeth stepped forward, wanting to hug him or say something to mark this parting. Dr. Fellerman had offered her guidance without pushing, and he’d been a great teacher—one of the rare people she trusted.

He frowned at her approach. “Don’t get too close. You’re not sick now, but you know how contagious this thing is.”

She nodded. “Thank you for everything.”

Dr. Fellerman gave her a weak smile. “Thank you, Elizabeth. And Godspeed.”

Elizabeth left his office and retraced her steps through the lab. As she waited for the elevator, Elizabeth looked down at the cryocase. Inside the insulated screw top, a smaller metal cylinder held the vials of cells. Liquid nitrogen filled the larger container, keeping the isolated virus at the optimum temperature, well below freezing. It had to stay that way or vaccine production would be set back by months.

What if she failed? The thought chilled her to her bones.

***

JT

Wind drafted up his naked body as JT surveyed the land for the threat he knew was coming, but as usual he saw nothing but waving corn, velvety alfalfa, grazing pigs in their fenced pen, and the wind-ruffled leaves of soybeans and potato fields, picturesque in late summer glory.

JT had a powerful intuition, a sense of coming things. Mama called it the Sight and told him he’d inherited it from his deceased grandmother, rumored to be una strega, a witch.

“You’re a canary in a coal mine,” she had said, pulling him in for a hug after he’d told her to get her car fixed, that there was something wrong with it. The mechanic discovered a broken brake line that might have killed her. “You’ve been given the Sight. Be sure to use it for good, caro Jacobino.”

JT had tried to use that sense, along with an environmental biology degree, for good. But no one ever listened to his warnings, even those backed up by science. He’d got so tired of watching disaster strike again and again, waves on a seashore, that he’d left the EPA for this, his own place, where he could prepare.

Away from other people, JT was able to screen the stress of the Sight out better, but so close to water, he felt it acutely: the tremor of a shadow moving across the land.

A sickness was coming.

His family—five brothers, his mom, and his precious little sister—were all still out there, ignoring his warnings and invitations to the Haven. It hurt like a bruise that would never heal, a bruise that kept him up at night.

JT duckwalked around the metal platform’s edge, pleasure in the day evaporated—he was just hot, tired, and very alone. He arrowed into the pond in a swan dive. At the cool weedy bottom, he paused, his eyes shut. His mysterious sense was buffered, and yet amplified, by the water.

The scorching of the earth was coming here—right to his doorstep—into his fields.

The knowledge chilled JT more than the cold green water at the bottom of the pond. He shot for the sunlight, gasping for breath.

About Scorch Road

A new romantic action adventure series for fans of romance thriller and family romance sagas!

One of six Italian brothers and a sister, JT Luciano is a widowed environmental biologist with a touch of the Sight who is preparing for an apocalyptic event he knows is coming. Holed up at the military survival camp prepared for his family, the Haven, JT is ready for whatever might come… except for one woman.

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, virologist and Senator’s daughter, is carrying precious cells for a vaccine against the swiftly-evolving, deadly flu that’s sweeping the nation. Her plane crashes in JT’s potato field–and she must convince him to leave the Haven and help her get to Washington, DC.

One by one, the structures of society implode in the face of the flu’s devastation as JT and Elizabeth travel a scorching road cross country.

Can danger bring them together to find one good, true thing in a changing world?

Get it on Amazon.

About the authors

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

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

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

Visit her:

 

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Monday musings: My literary evolution

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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.

 

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Monday musings: Writer—a creator or a narrator?

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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.

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Thursday teaser: A new book release

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Walking Out of War

by Scott Bury

The third volume of Scott Bury’s trilogy of the World War 2 experiences of a Canadian drafted into the Red Army will be published in February 2017. Here’s a sneak peek.

Most of the new recruits were very young, the last remaining boys from the farms and villages across Ukraine, those unlucky enough to reach their seventeenth birthdays before the war ended.

Not all were young, though. Old Stepan was in his forties, and Maurice wondered sometimes if Stepan’s story wasn’t similar to his own. But Stepan obviously had no experience with weapons or army life, and could not keep up with boys half his age.

One very hot day, the sergeant assigned Maurice, Stepan and eight young boys to pull an obsolete, heavy cannon up a hill. They knew better by this time than to grumble. Four boys put leather straps over their shoulders and pulled; Maurice and another got behind to push, leaving Stepan and the remaining boys to pull a wagon of ammunition. With the sun beating down on them and the humidity making every breath a chore, they hauled the massive gun across a muddy field to the bottom of the hill. The wheels squeaked and stuck, then sank into the mud.

“Get moving, you lazy buggers!” the sergeant yelled. “You think Fritz is going to wait for you to get your lazy asses moving? You’d all be dead a hundred times over by now on the battlefield!”

Maurice wondered if the sergeant had ever been to the battlefield, and decided that, in all likelihood, he had. There was almost no one left in Ukraine or Russia now who hadn’t been scarred in some way.

So they pushed and pulled the gun across the mud, trying as much as possible to stay on grass so the wheels wouldn’t sink so much into the ground. The sergeant had chosen their route to be as difficult as possible.

Halfway up the hill, the wheels stopped turning. The boys paused barely long enough to determine that the cause was too much mud caked around the axles before the sergeant was screaming at them again to keep moving. “The Germans aren’t so polite they’ll let you clean up! Your comrades are dying on top of that hill unless you get that gun up there! Get moving, you little girls!” Pushing the cannon became dragging the cannon.

It was nearly noon by the time they got the gun to the top of the low hill. Their uniforms were soaked and caked with dust. All the boys fell onto the ground, exhausted.

“Get up!” said the sergeant. The heat was getting to him, too: his shirt was wet with sweat and he wasn’t raising his voice anymore. “The Germans have retreated. Take this gun back to the base.”

The boys couldn’t help groaning, but the sergeant let that pass. They all stood up wearily and picked up the straps. Only Stepan stayed on the ground.

“Won’t you join us, comrade?” the sergeant sneered.

“I can’t,” Stepan puffed. “I’m worn out.”

The sergeant pulled his pistol from its holster. “Get up, or I’ll shoot you right now!”

Eyes wide, Stepan got up, picked up a box of ammunition and led the troop down the hill.

What it’s about

Canada-born Maurice Bury fought against the Germans invading Ukraine during Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Captured and starved, he escaped a German POW camp with the 11 men under his command. He fought in the underground resistance against German occupation for three hellish years. And now he’s back in the Red Army, which is soaking the soil of the Eastern Front in German and their own blood all the way to Berlin.

Maurice is determined to get back to Canada. But to do that, he not only has to survive the ferocity of the reluctantly retreating Germans, he also has to get away from the Communists. For if they learn his secret, they’ll kill him, too.

Launches February 22 on Amazon.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has written in the Lei Crime (Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line) Kindle Worlds.

His military memoir trilogy includes Army of Worn Soles and Under the Nazi HeelWalking Out of War will be published in February 2017.

He lives in Ottawa, Canada with two sons, two cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

Visit Scott’s:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

 

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Monday musings: peering through the fog

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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.

 

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Thursday teaser: Avengers of Blood

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

THE PHONE SLIPPED AS he wrote, and Tom Kado hunched his shoulder to bring the handset up against his ear. “Would you repeat that?”

The forensics man from Thayerville, Alabama, sighed. “Calvin Whitman. Born September 13, 1935. Died December 27, 1978. White male. Six feet two inches tall, two hundred and ten pounds. I still think something’s wrong with those fingerprints.”

“I can fax copies to you. I’ll even overnight an original to Alabama,” Kado said, finishing his notes. “But I’m absolutely certain that your dead Calvin Whitman has been living in Arcadia for over thirty years.”

“It doesn’t seem possible.”

“Why?”

“I’m looking at his file. His house burned the night of December 27. The fire started from faulty Christmas tree lights. The house went up fast. His bedroom was on the second floor but they found Whitman in the remains of his bed in the living room. Looks like the middle of the house collapsed and most of the second story dropped to the first floor.”

“How did they confirm that it was Calvin Whitman?”

“Let’s see.” Kado heard a sneeze. “Sorry, I had to dig this file out of storage. You’re lucky we still have it. This was part of a group scheduled to be shredded last year. I don’t know why they missed it.” The sound of shuffling paper came through the phone. “Here we go. Seems they found a ring that belonged to Whitman on the right hand, and some of the hair was still on his head. From the photo in the file, he had very thick black hair.”

“Was an autopsy performed?”

“Yes. Cause of death was smoke inhalation.”

“Dental comparison?” Kado asked.

“Umm,” more paper shuffling, “no.”

“Isn’t that odd?”

“Maybe. No fingerprints, either, probably due to the fire damage to the body. A deputy confirmed that it was Whitman. Nobody questioned his identification. Say, Tom?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you have a photo of this Calvin Whitehead? He must have been an old man, right?”

It was Kado’s turn to shuffle through paperwork. He located the crime scene photos and found only one photograph of Calvin Whitman. It was hanging on the wall behind the cash register and Kado needed a magnifying glass to see it clearly in the crime scene photo. In the picture, Whitman was frowning at the camera as he held a pair of scissors, ready to snip a ribbon stretched across the little store’s doors. Half a dozen locals looked on, smiling broadly. “There must be a driver’s license photo on file, and that’ll be pretty recent. We’ve got one early photo of him in a newspaper. Do you want a copy?”

“Of both, please.”

“Do you have one for me?”

“Yeah, I’ll send it when we’re done.” He sighed heavily again. “If you’re right, you know what this means for us?”

“Yup, you’ve got an open case,” Kado answered.

“A very old, very cold murder case.”

“And the very dead Calvin Whitman or Whitehead is your prime suspect.”

“Man, I’m gonna land in a white-hot shit storm.”

“Sorry about that,” Kado said, with genuine feeling. “When you send Whitman’s photograph, would you include his arrest record?”

“What arrest record?”

“Well, why is he in your system?”

“For exclusion purposes, of course.”

Kado felt dread tighten his gut. “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t mention it earlier?”

“Mention what?” Kado asked as the dread uncoiled along his spine.

“Calvin Whitman was Thayerville’s sheriff when he died. Had been, for close to twenty years. Everybody loved him. This, his still being alive, means that he’s a criminal. That’s why I’m gonna land in a shit storm.”

About Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

Find it on

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

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Monday musings: Writer—a creator or a narrator?

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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:

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Announcing: Elise Stokes returns to BestSelling Reads

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A founding member of BestSelling Reads, Elise Stokes has come back to the author’s group.

Elise Stokes’ first book, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, burst into prominence when it was selected by a middle school class in the U.S. in 2011. Written for a teenage audience, it’s an adventure tale about a teenage girl who’s turned into a superhero. It quickly rose to bestseller status.

Since then, she has published three more titles in the series: Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous. All have achieved bestseller status, as well as praise from critics and readers of all ages.

The fifth book in the series, Cassidy Jones and the Eternal Flame, is due to be published in early 2017.

Her aim was to write adventure books that are “fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds.” With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise lives with her husband and four children.

Find out  more about Elise on her

And follow her on Twitter @CassidyJonesAdv.

 

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