Summer time, and the reading is easy

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Monday musings

By Scott Bury

The season is here. The big parties that traditionally open the season have happened, despite all advice to the contrary. Weekend visits to the cottage or beach have turned into weeks-long vacations and road trips.

And that means that summer reading season has started, as well.

What is summer reading?

Summer reading has come to mean, for most, reading one or more of the blockbuster bestsellers, the ones heavily promoted by one of the five major commercial publishers, a new release by one of the reigning bestselling authors, or an earlier book that’s been turned into a movie.

This summer, that second category is not likely to be as big a factor, as most cinemas are closed. The closest will doubtless be something that’s been adapted for the smaller screen by a streaming service.

(Speaking of streaming services, there seems to be a new one vying for my monthly fee every week. And much of the content looks fascinating. But that’s a subject for a later post.)

For me, summer reading means trying to catch up with a large number of books I’ve bought or been given over the past twelve months.

Books to surprise and delight

The books I look forward most to reading are less well-known, by less well-known authors. Independent writers, new and emerging writers, and authors not promoted by big commercial corporations.

Often times, that means I have to turn to my friends for recommendations, or scour sites like Goodreads and, of course, BestSelling Reads, for new books to read.

So given all that, here are some of the books I look forward to reading this summer:

  • Hiding Scars, by Winnipeg writer Richard Zaric, the story of immigrants to western Canada during the First World War and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
  • What Had to Be Done by DelSheree Gladden
  • Beautiful Finale by Raine Thomas, the fourth, and final book of the House of Archer rock romance series

Okay, those last three are well-known, bestselling authors, but I like them, so …

  • The Winnipeg General Strike by Michael Dupuis, a book I bought a year ago on the centennial of the great, nation-shaping event
  • The Quisling Factor by J.L. Oakley, the follow-up to the excellent World War II drama set in Norway, The Jossing Affair, which I hope to see very soon

That should be enough for one summer.

I know what you avid readers are thinking: that’s not so many for three months! In my defence, I have also been working hard on finishing my oft-promised, and oft-delayed second Dark Age novel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

While that’s with alpha- and beta-readers and an editor, I have also been working on a new (or renewed) Hawaiian Storm mystery, Dead Man Lying.

So it’s going to be a literary summer for me.

What about you?

What are your summer reading plans? Tell us in the Comments.

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Do current events affect fiction?

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Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Monday musings by multiple bestsellers

There is much happening in the world today. Events are reaching the lives of more and more people, more deeply than is usual in our fragmented, digitally distanced society.

If fiction offers a mirror to society, how do fiction writers incorporate the events of the day they write? BestSelling authors muse about how current events may seep into their writing.

David C. Cassidy, horror

David C. Cassidy

As a fiction author, I often find it useful—and necessary—to incorporate current events or topics into my writing. To me, it brings a sense of urgency and legitimacy to the story when you can bring our world into the ones I create.

Sometimes, I’ll be direct and work an event into a story because it’s a definitive part of the narrative; it simply has to be there. My novel Velvet Rain, being a time-travel thriller, has several historical events in it, as well as “current” events with respect to the time period. Other times, I’ll make passing references to real-world events because it adds realism and impact. As a whole, I think readers enjoy that kind of thing—it makes a connection between what they have experienced in their world and the one they’re being drawn into with my stories.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

Writing historical fiction can always be a way to remind the gentle reader that some issues have been around for some time and as justice, progress is made, there are always steps back and then forward. Or maybe tell the story of a real person who might have been left out of the narrative by having a character interact with that person.

Certainly writing about Kanakas or Hawaiians in the 1860 Pacific northwest is always a jolt to those who love to party in their boats out in the San Juan Islands. Few know that their beloved Friday Harbor was once known as a Friday’s Harbor, named after the Hawaiian shepherd whose hut was just up the hill. His story was erased.

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

I think this happens anyway, whether the author plans it or not. Each book is a kind of projected future – unless it’s self defined as historical. And as William Gibson says: Imaginary futures are always… about the day in which they’re written. Which means all sorts of stuff about the current world seeps into everyone’s story telling. This is why books written thirty years ago are of their time, just as our books will be of our time. So, I don’t believe in incorporating real  current events. Better to let our stories speak for themselves of the times in which we live. 

DelSheree Gladden, romance, paranormal, fantasy and mystery

DelSheree Gladden

I try not to include specific current events in my writing, because it does date the stories. However, I do think the hard topics brought up by specific events can be incorporated into fiction as a way to discuss difficult subjects in a safer space than what social media provides in many cases. In fiction, a tough topic can become personal to the reader, and hopefully give them a different perspective.

Fiction creates something of a buffer, because the characters aren’t real. Their opinions aren’t coming from a friend or family member on Facebook they feel they have to reactor respond to. They can take in the story without the pressure to respond publicly, and hopefully it can sink in and resonate.

Gae-Lynn Woods, mystery, thriller, comic thriller

Gae-Lynn Woods

I think it’s inevitable that current events, or more accurately the impact of those events, winds up in my writing. Current events on a personal / local level or a national or international level have triggered each of my stories, although my books usually come at those events from an angle, rather than head on.

The very real, horrific death of James Byrd, Jr. sparked the idea for Avengers of Blood. That book is not his story, but unaddressed racial tensions from decades ago, and how they carry into the present, became the story. Like Sheree, I want to avoid dating my stories, but when an event strikes me deeply, it’s something I need to explore.

Scott Bury, historical fiction, biography, fantasy, mystery

Scott Bury

Fiction writers never create their stories out of nothing. Even the farthest-out fantasy of the weirdest world has seeds in the reality of today and history. 

Fiction gives readers a new lens to view the events of history and current times. Readers can then see the events, other people, trends and ideas from a different perspective. In that way, fiction can increase sympathy and empathy, and bring us together.

Wildfire: Wine Country Mystery #1 by Scott Bury
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Interesting times

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Monday musings

Photo by Jack Hunter on Unsplash

By Scott Bury

“May you live in interesting times” is often identified as a curse. And while the current time is fraught with fear, division, violence and illness, it’s also interesting.

Not to belittle or dismiss the seriousness of the crises affecting people. The hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world, the millions of cases of covdid-19 and other illnesses, the violence and fear felt in cities across the U.S. and other countries.

Not to mention the tens of millions of people, men, women and children living as refugees around the world. People living in war zones, people working in unsafe mines and fields and factories. 

Crises have a way of putting stresses under a magnifying glass, of making strengths and flaws more apparent. 

But these times are also interesting because it’s clear our society is at a crossroads, a point of choosing a path. 

Maybe it’s more like flocks of birds that somehow maintain cohesion as a group, while each member is flying its own path. Each one responds to its own perception of threat and opportunity and the wish to remain a part of its group.

From YouTube

People don’t act much different from this. Each of us choices each of us make in response to threat and opportunity, and our desire to be part of a group. 

The question: How will this look from the future?

What we historians make of this time?

How will fiction writers describe it?

Will the novel coronavirus pandemic bring long-term changes in social behavior and norms?

From a more light-hearted perspective, will it change romance writing? Will masks become seen as a normal part of human interaction? Will deciding to get closer than two metres/six feet become a regular part of a developing relationship? 

On the political side, will the coming days see people choosing the path of reconciliation and unity, or deeper divisions?

Too soon to tell

It’s impossible to write meaningfully about the direction of shifts in society and politics from the middle of it. 

But journalists do write meaningful analyses from the midst of crises. Here are just a few examples:

  • Jack Reed’s Ten Days the Shook the World written during the Russian Revolution of 1917
  • Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column written while he was covering the Spanish Civil War Michael Maclear’s The Ten Thousand Day War about Vietnam 
  • George Packer’s The Assassins Gate about the Iraq War, written in 2005

The list goes on. 

Still, we will need some perspective to know which path society chooses. There will doubtless be some elements on both paths. And we won’t know for some time which will prevail. 

And no doubt, these books, fiction and non-fiction, will be interesting.

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 several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, a pesky cat and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Volcano House

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A Hawaiian mystery Thursday teaser

By J.L. Oakley

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Kilauea, Hawaii, 1889

The lava lake glowed, its light reaching up into the deep night sky like a living thing. As the volcano belched, coughed and hissed, its light created wavering red and gold images on the ‘ohi’a trees and giant hapu’u tree ferns that dared to grow so close. From the crater’s belly, a tall column of cloud rose to the stars.

Almanzo Almeida stood on the long veranda of Volcano House and watched the party of twenty guests and their guides depart for Little Beggar on Pele’s Throat a half mile away. It would be a good night to descend onto the floor of Kilauea Crater. Their candle-lit lanterns twinkled in the dark like little fairy lights in counter march to the heavens above. Some of the guests, he suspected, wouldn’t want to go all the way across to the far lake, but might stop to pull out some thin glass threads of Pele’s Hair.

Volcano House, 1877

From outside the long ranch-style hotel, Almeida could hear the late night guests chatting around the great stone fireplace inside. At this elevation, nights at Kilauea could be chilly, even cold. The fireplace was always the focal point of the establishment overseen by the superb hospitality of Colonel and Mrs. Malby. Almeida patted his stomach. The food was outstanding, too, something that always amazed visitors, including Mark Twain, who came some years back. No matter if you came up the new carriage road from Hilo or came from Punalu’u by tram and horseback, Volcano House stood out as a first class hotel next to a volcano on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere: a jewel in the Royal Hawaiian Kingdom’s crown.

Volcano House restored, now the Volcano Art Center.

Out in the dark, a horse nickered down by the stables. Almeida pulled out his chain watch. Under the soft glow of a lantern he checked the time, then looked down in the direction of the stables. Shortly, a light appeared and began to swing back and forth. So Casper DeMello was back. Almeida put on his jacket. Moments later he was heading down across open ground, his only light a candle in his lantern.

Down by the low shed that served as a waiting station for guests, a shadow emerged.  

“What did you get this time? Anything good?” Almeida asked.

“Yeah, yeah. They nevah gonna miss it. Stupid tourists.” The young Portuguese man set his lantern up on a wide stump. When Almeida added his, the area bloomed with light.

DeMello pulled a bag of gold coins, a lady’s watch and chain, a silver comb out of a satchel and set them on the stump. Other items of value were added, all of them sparkling in the candle light.

“Were you careful?” Almeida asked as he handled one of the gold chains, weighing it back and forth through his fingers.

“Course I’m careful. It’s all stuff dropped on the steamer and the tram. The rest I just nipped. I was plenty careful.”

“Hmph.” Almeida grunted. It wasn’t easy getting up to the hotel. Tourists who came by a steamer to Punalu’u went from tram to road cart to horseback. It took hours. Almeida opened the bag of coins and counting them all out on the stump, he gave half to DeMello. “Once again, you did good.” Almeida gathered up the stolen items and put them back into the satchel. “When do you go back?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll catch the W.G. Hall going back to Honolulu.”

“Good. Got to keep these things irregular.”

A burst of laughter from inside Volcano House sliced the thin night air. Both men froze and looked blindly in that direction. Almeida shielded his eyes from the lanterns to see more clearly. As his eyes adjusted to the dark beyond the corral, he saw no movement on the veranda. He began to relax.

“I betta go,” DeMello said. He shouldered a haversack and picked up a walking staff leaning against the corral rail.

Almeida pointed to the haversack. “What’s in that?”

“Nuthin’. Just paper.”

“Let me see.”

DeMello scowled. “What’d you think? I’m cheating you?”

“Just curious. That’s nice leather. Nice silver clasp. That a—a thistle?”

DeMello shrugged. He unlocked the clasp then flipped open the flap. “See? Papers.” He pulled a packet of papers wrapped with a heavy cotton cord half-way out. The mouth of the haversack sagged wider.

Behind the packet Almeida could see another packet and a Scribner’s Magazine. “Where’d you get this stuff?”

“Ho’okena.”

Almeida’s eyes grew sharp and wary.

DeMello pulled the packet out further. A title was neatly handwritten on the front page, but all Almeida could read were the words, “Bottle Imp.”

“See? Papers.” DeMello grasped the straps tighter. He jammed the packet back in, but when it wouldn’t go in straight, Almeida grew suspicious and jerked the haversack out of DeMello’s hands.

“Hey!”

“What is this?” Almeida lifted out a long, sharp letter opener. The jewels in the silver handle sparkled in the lantern light—green, white and ruby. At the top was a thistle. “Cheating me, were you?”

“Cheating? You forget we both thieves, only I take all the risks.”

“But we must share.” Almeida hung the straps of the haversack on his shoulder. He turned the letter opener around in his hands. “I’ll keep it. Once I sell it, I’ll split the money.”

“No! It’s mine. I found it. Give it back—”

DeMello’s words ended in a cry as Almeida grabbed DeMello’s walking stick and slammed it on his head. DeMello staggered back, his hands pressed to his head. Blood began to flow between his fingers. His vision blurred. The last thing DeMello saw was Almeida’s sneering face and the letter opener raised high.

Volcano House

Auntie Bee Takahashi is turning 80 and her friends in the U’ilani Book Lovers Club are planning a big celebration up at historic Volcano House.

Plans take a dangerous turn when a long missing manuscript of The Bottle Imp, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great horror story, shows up among Bee’s stack of books. Tied to an unsolved murder 125 years old at the old Kilauea hotel, someone doesn’t want the crime to come out.

When weird accidents and mysterious happenings threaten Auntie Bee and members of her book club, her great-niece crime reporter Wendy Watanabe will have to step in to keep her safe. At the heart of her investigation, are the secrets behind two warring families spanning four generations and a land grab.

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters come from all walks of life, but all stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

When not writing, Janet demonstrates 19th century folkways, including churning some pretty mean butter.

Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. It is set in 1860 on San Juan Island in Pacific NW during a time with the British Royal Marines and US Army jointly occupied the island—peacefully.

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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#StayHome author reading

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It’s still important to stay home and stay six feet away from others as much as possible to control the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

To help break up the feeling of covisolation, BestSelling Reads authors continue the live readings from their books. Last week, Scott Bury read from his first published novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth.

The Bones of the Earth

The Dark Age, eastern Europe: the earth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors.

Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather’s dagger and the murder of his family.

On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?

For the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, you can buy it on sale at Amazon.

Or download it for free from

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 several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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A hero of The Eastern Front

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A war memoir Thursday teaser

By Scott Bury

The birthday of the main character of The Eastern Front Trilogy will be in two days. In his honour, we present a sample of the book that reveals something about his character and his family.

Chapter 16: Fighting in their own way

Nastaciv, December 1941

Out of uniform, out of the army, out of prison, Maurice was now under the command of his mother. Tekla Kuritsa did not allow her son to do anything but rest for a whole month. The harvest over, she paid young local boys to do what remained: manuring fields and fixing fences.

Day by day, Maurice regained weight and strength. At first, he sat in the kitchen, drinking tea and reading newspapers.

Nothing but German-approved propaganda. This paper actually says we Ukrainians are happy to be occupied by Germany.

Idleness quickly lost its allure. Maurice decided to make sure the farm was ready for winter. He started with chopping firewood. Just a half-hour a day, relishing in his ability to split logs with a single blow, chopping and sawing harder, and lasting longer each day.

One evening, Tekla took Maurice to the shed beside the barn for a chore he would find much more enjoyable.

“Is that a still?” he asked. “Mama, are you making vodka?”

“It’s not very good, but the German officers like it,” she said. She set him to work.

Maurice liked the opportunity to concentrate on a task, drawing a spoonful of clear liquor, carefully closing the valve then setting fire to the spoon. If the liquor burned with a blue flame, it was “proof,” good enough for sale.

One evening, Maurice filled six four-litre jugs and put them on a small wagon.

“Good boy,” Tekla said and buttoned her coat. “I’ll take this to the village.”

“Why?”

“To sell to anyone who wants it, of course. But mostly it goes to German officers.”

“It’s getting too late to go out, Mama,” Maurice said. “It’s almost curfew.”

“That’s the time men want to buy vodka,” she said, buttoning her coat.

“It’s too dangerous for a woman out in the evening. Let me go.”

She shook her head. “Maurice, you strong men don’t know how things work in wartime,” she said, patting his cheek. “An old lady out in the evening is much safer than a man. What would the patrols do if they caught you out after curfew?”

“Throw me in jail.”

“They would probably shoot you on the spot, sweetie. But they see an old lady struggling with a heavy wagon, they think of their own mothers.”

“Some of these bastards would just as soon shoot their own mothers.”

“That’s when I sell them some vodka.” She smiled and kissed him.

Maurice watched her pull the wagon to the road until she vanished into the evening gloom. He did not realize he was smiling as he shook his head.

My mother. After all I’ve been through, she’s going to sell cheap liquor to the Germans. She’s the bravest person I’ve ever seen.

The Eastern Front Trilogy

The true story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army during World War 2, just in time to be thrown against Nazi Germany’s invasion in Operation Barbarossa.

Caught in the vise between Nazi and Communist forces, Maurice Bury concentrates on keeping his men alive as they retreat across Ukraine from the German juggernaut. Now the question is: will they escape from the hell of the POW camp before they starve to death?

Find it exclusively in paperback on:

For a limited time, the Eastern Front Trilogy is available in three volumes for reduced prices, or free, in e-book form from Amazon.

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 several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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