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: Under the Nazi Heel

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Book 2 in the Eastern Front trilogy

By Scott Bury

Chapter 10: The heel grinds

Nastaciv, July 1942

Maurice woke at noon the day after the night raid. Hot air came in through the open window and he felt sticky with sweat. After washing, he found his mother in the sweltering barn, tending her still.

“Bad news from the villages around,” she said when he came in, without looking up at him. She put more fuel into the little furnace, her brow furrowed. A soft gurgle came from somewhere in the still, and she tapped the copper pipe that led to the first collecting barrel.

The heat from the furnace under the still made Maurice dizzy. “Come outside and tell me.” He stepped out and waited for Tekla to finish fussing over her vodka and follow him. Outside, a slight breeze relieved some of the heat of the summer sun.

“What did you hear?” he asked finally, lighting a cigarette.

“Young Yulia Evanyshyn from Yospivka went missing last night. And a man named Yurchik was killed. People buried him here in Nastaciv secretly at night.” As she looked up at him, Maurice felt like her eyes were drilling into his head. “You’re smoking too much lately.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Where were you all night?”

“It’s best if you don’t know that.” Maurice took one more drag, then threw the half-smoked cigarette to the ground and stomped it with his heel.

“They say the Germans in Seredynky are hopping mad,” Tekla said, closing the barn door.

Maurice helped her push it closed. “Who says?

“People.” She latched the door and walked toward her beet field.

“We better go to the village and find out what people are saying.”

“You go. I have work to do here.”

Vasyl was sitting at Komorski’s café as usual, but outside on the step. “Hey, Maurice,” he said as Maurice sat beside him. “Did you hear about Seredynky?”

“Not much. What did you hear?”

“The Germans have burned down five houses and executed three men. They sent their families away, to camps, they say.”

Despite the sun beating on the back of his neck, Maurice felt cold. “Why?” came out like a rasp.

“Partisans attacked last night, they say. They killed five German soldiers at the garrison there, so the commander ordered one house burned for each man killed. He shot the fathers of each house himself. One of them had a pretty, young wife and they say he has her in his quarters now, where he’s using her for his own sick pleasure.” Vasyl spat into the dirt. “Bastards.”

Maurice stood, feeling himself tremble from head to foot. He went into Komorski’s little house and found the café owner sitting at his own table, his head in his hands. A plain bottle of clear liquid sat on the table, beside a shot glass. “Is it true what they’re saying about Seredynky?” Maurice asked.

Komorski looked pale. He smoothed his hair and spoke to the table. “The Germans set the first house on fire at dawn. They didn’t even bother giving the people inside a warning to get out. They shot the father in front of his three children.”

“How do you know this?”

“The brother of one of the men shot came down here a few hours ago. His name was Loboda, and he was my cousin.” With shaking hands, Komorski poured a shot from the bottle, slopping some of the homemade whiskey onto the table. He threw the drink into his mouth and swallowed. He tried to pour another shot, but his hands could not keep the bottle’s mouth over the glass. Maurice took the bottle and poured for him.

“Yurchik was killed and buried secretly last night, too,” Komorski continued. “He lived here, in this village. He was my friend. It won’t take the Germans long to work out the connection.” He looked up, finally, at Maurice. “Are they going to come here, Maurice? How many houses will they burn in Nastaciv? How many men will they shoot? How many girls are they going to rape?”

About Under the Nazi Heel

For Ukrainians in 1942, the occupying Germans were not the only enemy.

Maurice Bury was drafted into the Red Army just in time to be thrown against the invading Germans in 1941. Captured and starved in a POW camp, he escaped and made his way home to western Ukraine, where the Nazi occupiers pursued a policy of starving the locals to make more “living space” for Germans.

To protect his family, Maurice joins the secret resistance. He soon finds the country faces multiple threats. Maurice and his men are up against Soviet spies, the Polish Home Army and enemies even closer to home.

Experience this seldom seen phase of World War 2 through the eyes of a man who fought and survived Under the Nazi Heel.

Get it 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, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. 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, Echoes), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line, The Three-Way) Kindle Worlds.

His latest work is the Eastern Front trilogy: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

Get to know Scott from his:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

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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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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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Thursday teaser: Back Side of a Blue Moon

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By Caleb Pirtle III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell another soul.

Tell the world.

It didn’t matter.

About Back Side of a Blue Moon

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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

 

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

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

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Writers want to hear from readers

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

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

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

 

Fred Brooke would like to ask readers two different things.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Toby Neal also has two questions:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Gae-Lynn Woods asks

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

 

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

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Meet the Author Monday: Gae-Lynn Woods

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This week, BestSelling Reads presents Gae-Lynn Woods, an author who lives in East Texas.

Tell the readers about the books you’ve written.

I have written three books, and I’m hard at work on novel number four.

All my books are mysteries set in a small town in East Texas. The first two, The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood, are part of the Cass Elliot Crime Series. The third, A Case of Sour Grapes, is a companion novel to the series, featuring Cass’s best friend, Maxine Leverman. My fourth book is a return to the Cass Elliot series.

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

I had the vaguest idea of the characters who would inhabit Forney County when I started writing The Devil of Light and have loved getting to know them. Cass grows considerably over the series, from a damaged woman unsure of her place in the world, to a confident detective hunting for the man who hurt her, and perhaps many other women. I try to highlight a character in each book, because I love learning about them. In Avengers of Blood, we find out how Officer Ernie Munk lost his daughter years ago, and how that event continues to impact his career and his life.

How has your style changed over that same period?

I am a fan of long books with twisty plots. Greg Iles, Stephen King, Elizabeth George, Justin Cronin—I love the way their books allow for character and story development. My first two novels are long, with Avengers of Blood running to almost 600 pages, and the stories themselves are dark and twisty. I decided I wanted a different feel to Maxine Leverman’s first novel, so it’s written in the first person and is a much tighter and lighter read. The mystery is still intense, but Maxine’s approach to it is impulsive and at times, comical. The next novel in the Cass Elliot series is headed right back to those intertwined plots and original length, but I’m looking forward to writing another novel from Maxine’s perspective.

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

I’m a complete pantser and as much as I would like to o-u-t-l-i-n-e, even thinking the “o” word shuts my creativity down. I start a story with a general idea of the conflict and a glimpse of how the story ends, then write and see where events and my characters take me.

What about the way you create characters or build worlds?

Because my novels are set in in the same small town, many of the characters overlap from one novel to the next. That’s the way it is in small towns: everybody knows everybody else, and all their business! I know very little about my characters when they show up during the course of a book, and learning about them as I write is part of the fun. I keep notes about almost all characters, even the most minor, updating them as the books develop. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to many countries, and meeting so many people gives me great ideas for character traits and development.

Is there a particular place or time you like to write?

My preference is to write first thing in the morning, before the day has a chance to interrupt me. But life is a bit unpredictable right now, so I write whenever I find time.

I do most of my writing at home in our study, but I spend a lot of time at gigs and rehearsals with my husband. Earphones and music are crucial to my writing process. I’ve written in coffee shops and restaurants, stuffed in dusty backstage corners or dressing rooms, and sitting cross-legged in airport hallways. I’m outside a music store now, waiting in the car for my husband to pick up a guitar. I’ve got a mobile desk on my lap and Freddie Mercury in my ears. Life is good.

Get to know Gae-Lynn Woods

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.

When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fence, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

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Thursday teaser: Femme Fatale

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Vigilante, Book 7 by Claude Bouchard

The remainder of the evening with Monique and Henri had turned into a pleasant one once the shock of Louie’s murder had been absorbed. Henri had recounted anecdotes of his security work at the Louvre, ranging from idiocies performed by tourists around priceless pieces of art to several attempted thefts over the years. Monique told childhood stories about her daughters which would have embarrassed them had they been present. Leslie, for her part, described how she and Dominique had met and become attracted to each other, already well aware of the Petits’ comfort and liberal minding regarding their daughter’s sexual orientation.

By ten o’clock, all three were yawning, weary from the long, emotional day they had been through and knowing those coming would be just as demanding. They agreed to calling it a night and following a polite argument with Henri insisting Leslie sleep over while she refused, she bade them good night and headed back to Dominique’s apartment.

Her ride back in the relatively light traffic along the now familiar route was uneventful and she was soon parking the scooter in the deserted courtyard at Dominique’s. A light automatically came on as she entered the building, illuminating the empty hallway as she made her way to the elevator which seconds later was whisking her upwards. The doors slid open at the fourth floor and Leslie exited, turning towards the door to her temporary home immediately to her right. With key in hand, she unlocked the door and entered the apartment, flicking on the ceiling light in the entranceway as she went.

The sun had shone through the windows all afternoon, leaving the apartment feeling warm and stuffy. Wishing to let in some fresh air, Leslie crossed the living room to the French doors which opened to a faux balcony overlooking the tiny side street below. She turned the latch and as she placed her hands on the knobs, she raised her eyes and froze for an instant.

The contrast between the darkness outside and the dim light within was sufficient to turn the panes of the French doors into mirrors and coming towards her at an increasing pace was the man she had seen in the elevator that afternoon.

Turning the knobs, she pulled both doors open and dropped into a crouch at precisely the moment he reached her. Grasping only open air in surprise as he lunged, the man toppled forward as he tripped over Leslie, his shins on her back, his ribs crashing hard against the railing outside. At the same moment, Leslie pushed upward, rising from her crouched position and effectively catapulting the man’s legs into the air… and out the open doors and over the railing.

She heard the dull thud a second before clutching the railing and looking down. Even from her fourth floor viewpoint, she was convinced the man had not survived the fall. The peculiar angle of his neck was a dead giveaway.

About Femme Fatale

Doesn’t everyone fantasize a bit about vigilante justice? Haven’t you ever read or heard of some despicable act of violence and secretly wished you could have the opportunity to make the predator pay? Welcome to the VIGILANTE Series, a growing collection of suspense best sellers best described as thrillers and mysteries which will have you cheering for the assassin as justice is delivered in a clandestine fashion. But remember, this is fiction so it’s not a crime.

Book 7 of the VIGILANTE Series

Less than two years ago, Leslie Robb, an accountant working for the Imperial National Bank, had seen her life-partner and co-worker, Gina, shot to death during a bank heist. Taken as a hostage along with millionaire and Discreet Activities operative, Chris Barry, Leslie had played an integral role in helping the DA team bring the offenders down.

As a result of her sang-froid, sense of moral justice and martial arts affinities, Leslie left the world of finance to join the elite clandestine agency to fight crime… Now, she has a new partner in life, Dominique Petit, who suggests Leslie visit with her while she is in Paris on business.

Less than twenty-four hours after Leslie arrives, Dominique and her sister, Corinne, disappear, turning Leslie’s vacation into her own business trip of justice and revenge…

Get it on Amazon.

About the author

Claude was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eye of Krystalle and Midnight, two black females of the feline persuasion. In a former life, he completed his studies at McGill University and worked in various management capacities for a handful of firms over countless years. From there, considering his extensive background in human resources and finance, it was a logical leap in his career path to stay home and write crime thrillers.

Get to know Claude on his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

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