Thursday teasers: Pick your summer beach reads

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The long weekend is coming up fast, with summer vacation season following immediately. And BestSelling Reads has perfect summer reads for to load onto your e-reader and take down to the beach, dock, hammock or patio for those long, lazy days.

Wine, women, and song — what could possibly go wrong?

A Cass Elliot companion mystery novel by Gae-Lynn Woods.

 

Discover how Cassidy Jones gains superpowers in her first action-packed adventure.

The first Cassidy Jones adventure by Elise Stokes.

 

A con man came to town to steal their money, but a beautiful woman stole his heart.

Book 1 in the Boom Town Saga by Caleb Pirtle III.

 

The past and the present collide with stunning results in the latest Reed Ferguson mystery.

A Reed Ferguson mystery by Renee Pawlish.

 

An artistic voyage in crime.

A James Blake art-crime mystery by Seb Kirby

 

A secret can tear you apart or bind you forever…

A love story by D.G. Torrens.

 

 

One of the boys of summer meets his match in this captivating baseball romance. 

A New Adult novel by Raine Thomas. 

 

Messing with Chris Barry’s crowd will result in dire consequences. 

A Vigilante series crime thriller by Claude Bouchard.

 

Maui is a perfect retirement home for a once-famous singer—until he’s found dead. But is it murder?

Dead Man Lying

A Lei Crime Kindle World mystery by Scott Bury.

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Monday musings: Travel and inspiration

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“Where do you get your ideas from?” Cecily Pigeon (or maybe it was Gwendolyn) asked Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple.

It’s a question every writer gets. While Felix, who wrote news for TV, could answer “From the news!” for fiction writers, it’s more complicated—and, I think, more fun.

There are any number of things that can spark an idea for a creative writer of fiction—or even non-fiction. Sights, sounds, smells, stories, experiences; the way a shadow moves over a wall as a car’s headlights sweep past; the way a friend hesitates before answering a question; the shouts of spectators at a football game; even the way clouds move across a darkening sky.

I just returned from a trip to the Czech Republic, where so many sights, sounds and experiences sparked ideas for different types of stories, I could barely write them down fast enough to remember them. In fact, I’m certain I’ve forgotten a lot.

Have you ever done that writing exercise, where you base a story on a picture? Here are a few images that can prove evocative.

This is an old palace in the Moravian town of Telc. Castles and palaces are easy. What does it make you think of? A story about a princess and a cruel king in medieval times? How about lost treasure buried deep in hidden passages, or a horrible family secret?

Here’s a picture taken from the plane on the way back. Those are the mountains of Greenland—yes, Greenland! This can evoke stories of lost explorers, or refugees fleeing persecution in a warm climate. How about a story about climate change? Reach deeper: the relationship between humanity and the infinite.

Here’s a shot of street performers in Prague. What story would you write about this? What if I told you they were playing “Stairway to Heaven”?

A new story

My favourite story idea from this trip to Prague came like pulling on the tiny end of a thin thread. You know how it is: First, the bit of thread you can reach is so short, you can barely grasp it. Pulling on it is as likely to make it slip from between your fingers as to pull it longer, but bit by bit, you get a better grip. Then it comes out, faster and faster, fuller and fuller.

I had an idea like that after attending a “black light” performance, a uniquely Prague form of entertainment. Not so much ideas of events or characters came from that, but more a feeling that Prague evoked in me: a city that at the same time presents mystical, almost magical impressions, as well as a long tradition of modernism and commitment to science, rationality, humanism and science.

What about you? What inspires ideas for stories in your mind? Do you have a picture you’d like to send to your favourite author to see what they might come up with? Leave a Comment.

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Seven characteristics of successful #writers that cannot be taught

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By Toby Neal

This post originally appeared on Toby Neal’s blog on September 21, 2016.

Seven characteristics of successful writers cannot be taught—but they can be learned and developed until they become the habits that are the bedrock of a successful artist practice in any field.

  • The successful writer is a keen observer of everything around him. Writers notice things: the way a closet smells of cedar, mothballs, and the unique stench of crumbling old photographs. They see the gilt hairs on a centipede, the gleam of a lost marble in the grass. They feel the chill of dried sweat on the inside of a parka—and everything, simply everything, is something that might be useful for story.
  • The successful writer is dangerously curious. Curiosity is a quality that cannot be faked or taught—but it can be cultivated. Curiosity drives the questioning mind to relentlessly ask: what if? Why? How does this work? Seeking answers is the stuff of story, legend, art and invention—and while not every question may be of interest, an inquiring mind can be nurtured (particularly in children. But that’s a topic for another day.)
  • The successful writer has talent plus passion. Talent cannot be faked. Some people just have an innate adeptness with words, with paint, with a musical instrument—they perform in their area of passion easily, gracefully, naturally. But those who succeed don’t just have talent—they can’t NOT do their art. Oh, the stories I could tell on this one. My early ambition to be a writer was actually crushed by the careless comment of an adult I respected at a party before I left for college. “What? You want to be a writer? You’ll never make a living doing that.” I was forty before I began to really put that all-to-common sound bite behind me, and for a while I grieved for all the time lost. Eventually, though, I could see all the ways that I was writing all of my life, and none of it was wasted. Even when a creative’s sublimating, their passion oozes out in that church newsletter, that nursery mural, that ditty on the trash can at the bus stop. They must, and they will, come what may—and eventually the universe shapes itself to support that unyielding passion.
  • The successful writer learns from criticism (but never gives up.) Rejection is inherent to any creative enterprise. As my editor Kristin Weber said, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Creative fields are also filled with what Julia Cameron, in her groundbreaking The Artist’s Way, calls “shadow artists.” These are blocked creatives, who, instead of doing their own art, have instead become the tastemakers, the critics, the professors and teachers, the reviewers. That’s not to say everyone in these roles is a shadow artist—no, far from it! But you’ll know the shadow artist by the brutality and cruelty of their attack, the mean-spirited belittlement of their judginess. They cannot hide their bitter jealousy, and its toxic venom burns the tender young artist. Put on your armor, take your hits—and be humble. Learn from the criticism, do that next edit, go the extra mile to perfect the work with grace and thanks—but never let anyone’s bad review make you give up.
  • The successful writer is not afraid to be alone. Art is, and writing particularly, a solitary pursuit. Even co-writing, which I’m doing now, is still me on my side of the world writing my words alone, and my co-author on hers writing her words, both of us dumping them into a shared story (alone) and then trying to make it all hang together (which can definitely be harder than working alone!) A taste for one’s own company is very much a characteristic of the successful writer. You can learn to do this by taking small retreats and learning to sit with the silence, learning to build an inner self sufficiency—and the writing or other art will deepen as a result.

    My work area, surrounded by special objects.

  • The successful writer focuses and finishes. It’s not enough to flit through life, beginning novels, getting forty pages in, and abandoning them out of boredom (as I did.) It takes commitment to focus, persist, follow the rabbit-trail of an idea, capture and nurture it, weed, water and feed it, trim, groom, and harvest the fruit of it—even if that particular novel ends up in a drawer, becoming fertilizer for the next one. Focusing and finishing are important habits that separate the wannabes from the doing-its. Learn to focus and finish, even if it doesn’t come naturally—there are apps, books, techniques available. (Look up Pomodoro Method, and the book Steal Like an Artistby Austin Kleon, for ideas.)
  • The successful writer is persistent. The single greatest characteristic needed for success in any creative field is persistence. It can make up for a multitude of sins, including lack of talent, having no ideas, being a sellout, an idiot, a messed-up neurotic with a mental health disorder, a drunk or a dilettante. If you refuse to give up, and just keep coming to the page day after day after day, you will improve. You will succeed in becoming the best writer you can be.

As I write this, I am on vacation in the wilds of British Columbia, a location I chose because of its optimal writing opportunities and with which my family cooperated because they love nature too, and fishing, and trees and eagles and the sound of the tide turning. But today I am happily alone, delighted with the idea of a long stretch of uninterrupted writing before me, and amazed that its my writing paying for it all. I wish I’d known thirty years ago what I know now, and share with you freely. But only you can believe in yourself and your passion enough to make room for it to flourish. I hope you will.

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, Toby credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the LeiCrime Series.

Get to know Toby on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser: Tears of Endurance

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By D.G. Torrens

Ben felt his mobile phone vibrating. It was Arianna; he pressed the reject call button and turned his phone off. He couldn’t face anyone right now. He climbed out of the taxi and walked into his apartment building in a daze. He caught the lift to the top and let himself into his apartment. Charlie walked slowly over to Ben, not his usual bounding self. “You already know, don’t you, boy?” Ben slid down the side of the door and sat on the floor. Charlie lay beside him and rested his head on Ben’s lap, looking up at Ben with his big sad eyes and whimpering.

An hour passed by before Ben realised he was still sitting on the floor. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, time was inconsequential now. He went into the kitchen and reached for the whisky bottle sitting on the top shelf of the cupboard. Grabbing a glass, he walked out on to the balcony. He just wanted to forget the day, he wanted it to melt away like a bad dream. He gulped down the first glass in one go and then poured another, then another and then another. He wasn’t feeling much of anything by the time dusk was setting in. He felt numb and it felt good. Devoid of feeling for now, he walked back into the lounge and put a CD on, playing it full blast.

About Tears of Endurance

A secret can tear you apart … or bind you forever. For Arianna Ferria, a satisfying and challenging life as an art gallery owner takes an unexpected turn into burning romance when she falls for the handsome and successful Ben Fielding. Soon, their relationship blossoms into more than she could ever imagine. But when a black secret comes crashing down around them, their love faces the ultimate test as they come to grips with a tragic fate that will bring you to tears … Tears of Endurance.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

D.G. Torrens is the author of 14 books, including the bestselling trilogy, Amelia’s Story #1, Amelia’s Destiny #2 and Amelia The Mother #3. This is an emotion-charged true story that the author wrote for her daughter.

Born in England, passionate about writing, D.G. Torrens is a mother, blogger and prolific writer. In 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Get to know Dawn on her:

and follow her on Twitter @torrenstp.

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Thursday teaser: The Devil of Light

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Win a free e-copy of Book 1 in the Cass Elliot Crime Series

by Gae-Lynn Woods

LENNY SCARBOROUGH TAPPED THE syringe and placed the glass vial in the pocket of his overalls. He reached through the loading chute’s weathered planks, deftly pinched together the heavy hide and inoculated Cleopatra with an antibiotic. She’d been limping for the past few days and he’d spotted the beginnings of foot rot, a dangerous condition for a cow. He’d rounded the cattle up this morning to medicate those who were showing signs of the disease. Extracting the needle, he rubbed the injection site and ran an appraising eye over his lead cow, her coat gleaming in the misty morning light. She was a Black Angus, full-blooded and full of herself, if you asked the other cows. Top of the pecking order, Cleopatra was first to the feeding trough, first at the pond and first into the loading chute when Lenny had treatments to dish out.

Fondling her ears, he slipped her a feed cube as a reward for good behavior and released the heavy headlock. She trundled through, trotting for the far gate and fresh hay. He watched to see if she would avoid the unconscious form in the corral’s cool grass. The damage inflicted by the sharp hooves of a twelve-hundred pound animal would’ve been a sight to behold, but a part of him relaxed when Cleopatra grunted once and swung wide of the body resting near the long arms of the hay dolly attached to the old farm pickup. Bruises were one thing, but severe injuries from a cow would require a doctor; that kind of intrusion into his life Lenny did not need.

The next cow in line rushed forward and he clamped the headlock around her neck to begin his examination. He sang as he worked, low voice reciting the hymns his little Methodist church used in worship. Life had been good to Lenny, and such was his faith in himself and his Lord that he only smiled briefly at the strangled sound of movement behind him. A few quiet gasps later, the corral settled back into stillness and Lenny returned to his work, so absorbed in the care of his cattle and the praise of his Lord that he was momentarily startled by the creak of the rusty pickup’s door. A derisive laugh escaped him, and he shook his head once, reluctantly impressed at this display of dogged determination.

The engine hiccupped to life, roaring as a foot was applied to the accelerator, but still Lenny did not turn from his task. He was thumping an air bubble from the syringe when the engine’s rattling changed and his senses prickled, searching for the oddity in this otherwise mundane sound. As the engine screamed and mud flew from beneath the spinning tires, the hair on the nape of his neck rose, and he turned as the tires gained purchase. The sharp point of the hay dolly’s long spike plunged into his chest, lifting him from his feet and pinning him against the loading chute’s weathered planks. Warmth spread down his chest and between his legs. His eyes met those reflected in the pickup’s rearview mirror and he was shocked at the exhausted fury burning in them. As his heart thumped its last weary beat, Lenny Scarborough’s face reflected his amazement that something so weak and worthless could’ve at last gotten the better of him.

You could win a copy of The Devil of Light

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Get it on:

Leave a Comment below for a free e-copy of The Devil of Light

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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What your favorite authors are working on

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The authors of BestSelling Reads have more than 200 titles for you to enjoy, but we’re not just waiting for you to read them. We’re all hard at work on our next books.

Here are what some of your favorite writers are working on.

Alan McDermott, author of the Tom Gray series

My latest work is set in the US. It has a female lead who teams up with an ex-soldier who has been targeted by the government. They race against time to find out why the most powerful men in the world want them dead. It is packed with intrigue and action.

It’s not technically part of the Tom Gray series. Having done that and the MI5 spinoff, Trojan, I decided to try something new, though a few familiar characters are involved in this one, too. I’m excited about it, as it means I can go off in one of three directions with my next book, be it a Tom Gray, Andrew Harvey or another one with Nolene.

I woke up with the idea of someone having a bullet fly past his head and running for his life.  I watered that seed, and now it is turning into what could be my best book yet.

D.G. Torrens, author of the Amelia series and other titles

I am currently working on a standalone romance/drama. My working title is ‘Finding You”: however, this will probably change before I publish it.

This is a romantic/drama that is filled with every emotion you can imagine … to be released in the autumn.

My inspiration for this story came to me around 2 one morning, when I woke up from an amazing dream. It was one of those dreams you don’t want to wake up from! A dream all consumed by love.

 

Claude Bouchard, author of the Vigilante series

Claude Bouchard

I’m currently working on Make it Happen, the thirteenth installment of my Vigilante Series. Related to Discreet Activities, the sixth of my series, Make it Happen also deals with terrorism, namely with attacks conducted by the revived Army for Islam which are being financed by the larger State of Islam.

As with all my thrillers, it was inspired by the sad world we live in.

Raine Thomas, author of the Estilorean and Ascendant series

I’m currently writing Driving Tempo (a New Adult Rock Star Romance). It’s Book 3 in the House of Archer series. I just released Book 2, Unsteady Rhythm on May 22.

This series was inspired by my love of music, which I find incredibly inspirational. I always listen to music when I write, so combining the two into a romance series was only natural!

Seb Kirby, author of the James Blake series and Sugar for Sugar

I’m closing in on completing a new psychological thriller with the provisional title “The Anatomy of Truth.” I hope it will be available by September.

It’s a stand-alone story, but it shares some features with my earlier psychological thrillers, Each Day I Wake and Sugar for Sugar. The location is similar: the South Bank and the East End of London. My unlikeable detective, Stephen Ives, also plays a significant role.

I became interested in cases where criminal defence lawyers work to undo a miscarriage of justice that has put a client away for a life sentence on flimsy identification evidence and how they might be able to launch an appeal. But the story quickly developed a life of its own. It’s developed a complexity that has surprised me. I’m working hard to render that in a straightforward form.

DelSheree Gladden, author of the Date Shark, Aerling, Destroyer, Handbook and other series

I was working on Memory’s Edge Part 2, but couldn’t get Eliza and Baxter out of my head after finishing “Firebrand” so I switched over to the next Eliza Carlisle Mystery, which is so far unnamed.

This will be the third full-length book in the Eliza Carlisle Mystery series. Book 2, “Firebrand,” is being edited right now and I couldn’t resist starting book three when I got an idea for a new murder mystery plot.

Inspiration: I’ve been reading the Lacey Luzzi series by Gina LaManna, so of course food was on my mind! With Eliza Carlisle (from my series) being culinary school, how could I not end up creating a murder investigation around a cupcake?

Gae-Lynn Woods, author of the Cass Elliot crime series

I’m working on the next Cass Elliot Crime Novel. Cass and Maxine track down a serial rapist and believe they’ve caught the man who attacked them both. But have they?

This is the third book in the Cass Elliot Crime Series. Maxine Leverman turned up in the second novel, Avengers of Blood, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote a book just for her. That became the first Cass Elliot companion novel, A Case of Sour Grapes. I’m back on track after that little diversion, and Maxine is playing nicely with the rest of my characters. For the moment!

Inspiration: When I started writing The Devil of Light, I knew that Cass had been raped and that she became a cop to find the man who attacked her. Then Maxine turned up and told us that she’d been attacked by the same man. Now both women are pushing to find this guy and settle things with him. I’m not sure where the story will take us, but you can bet a few bodies will pile up along the way.

 

 

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Thursday teaser: Gray Retribution

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Book 4 in the Tom Gray series

By Alan McDermott

“Heads up.  We’ve got movement to the north.”

Simon ‘Sonny’ Baines lay on the roof of the farm building and listened to the approaching band of guerrillas make a beeline for the building.  Below,
Len Smart, Carl Levine and Jeff Campbell took up defensive positions against the low wall that ran around the perimeter of the house.  Their movement was silent in comparison to that of the attacking force, which announced its presence by crashing through the undergrowth like a herd of elephants headed for a waterhole.

The three men on the ground trained their sights on the tree line that bordered the eastern edge of the smallholding, remaining silent as they
waited for the bandits to make an appearance.  The noise grew louder as the attackers approached, then suddenly stopped dead.

Silence covered the area as the nocturnal orchestra took a time out.  It seemed as if even the animals and insects wanted to watch the action unfold.

Len Smart slowly wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, careful not to make too quick a movement in case it was seen by the enemy.  Mosquitoes danced around his head, kept at bay by the insect repellent, but their incessant buzzing told him that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

As if the oppressive humidity weren’t reminder enough.

Without warning, muzzle flashes lit up the edge of the forest.  None of the defensive team returned fire, preferring to lull the enemy into advancing
out of the trees and into the kill zone.  The small-arms fire continued for a few seconds before petering out, allowing silence to return.

All remained still for over a minute, then Sonny’s voice came over the comms.  “Got people in the grass at your ten and two.  Looks like they’re
trying to flank us.”

Len Smart was on the right of the trio and he saw his target a hundred yards away.  Rather, he saw the top of the three-foot tall grass sway gently as
the unseen assailant crawled slowly through it.  Night-vision goggles would have come in handy, but he would have to make do with the sliver of
moonlight that cast a dull shine over the African plantation.  Besides, there were four of them and an estimated enemy strength of around fifty, so
in Smart’s mind they easily had the locals outnumbered.

“Got him,” he said, and Levine on the other end of the line confirmed that he also had a bead on his man.

The AK-47s opened up once more, but the three men continued to save their ammunition and keep their locations hidden.  They spotted a couple of armed men advancing slowly from the trees but held their fire, preferring them to get a little closer before engaging. From the rooftop, Sonny watched the scene unfolding below him, oblivious to the wraith-like figure scaling the rear wall.

Sergeant Nwankwo Okeke was clad in an ancient British Army smock and trousers, the disruptive-pattern material a throwback to the late seventies.
His features, like those of the four Englishmen, were obscured by the black and tan camouflage face-paint.  The exception was that underneath the
disguise, his skin was the colour of night, the war paint applied more for effect than concealment.

The chatter of gunfire from the trees intensified, and the occasional grenade came arcing towards the defences.  They landed pitifully short, but
the noise they generated helped to mask Okeke’s approach.  He reached the lip of the roof and peered over.  Sonny lay five yards away with his back
towards him. Okeke eased himself up on powerful forearms and quietly swung a leg over the edge.  He waited, hand over his holster, but Sonny continued to focus on the battle beneath him.

Okeke eased forward, one hushed step at a time, silently drawing his nine-inch knife from its leather sheath.

Two yards.

One.

He fell on Sonny’s back and yanked his head backwards, drawing the blade across his victim’s throat.  With Sonny down, Okeke made an animal call that signalled his friends below.  They broke from the cover of the building and raked the trio’s positions with AK-47 fire.

Smart, Levine and Campbell, all facing the other way, realised too late that they’d fallen for a feint.

They never stood a chance.

About Gray Retribution

Tom Gray is enjoying time with his family after the birth of his daughter, now three months old, and just wants an easy home life. However, trouble has a way of finding him. While he is visiting his uncle’s new grocery store, thugs arrive demanding protection money, and in the ensuing fight, Gray is hurt. As he recuperates, Gray learns that a team of friends is facing grave danger on a mission in a tiny war-torn African nation, where an evil warlord is kidnapping boy soldiers to do his work in his bid for supremacy. Gray sets off on a rescue mission, but with his attention now divided between two continents, events are spiraling out of control, and Gray must fight to save all that is dear to him.

In Gray Retribution, the fourth book of the popular, action-packed Tom Gray series, suspense builds to an unforgettable ending.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

Alan McDermott lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan,
is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey. It will be released in early 2017.

You can find more information on Alan’s:

BestSelling Reads author page  |  Amazon Author page  |   Website and blog  |  Facebook page

And follow him on Twitter @jambalian.

 

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Monday musing: Inspiration from nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The newest Dewey Webb Historical Mystery is now out!

By Renée Pawlish

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

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

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

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

I nodded. “Roy Jefferson.”

“That’s right.”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a living.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I named my daily fee.

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

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

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

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

About Honor Among Thieves

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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

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

Find more about Renée and her books on

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

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

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

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

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

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

How a writer writes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What not to do:

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think, as a reader?

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