Summer time, and the reading is easy

Share

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.

Share

Do current events affect fiction?

Share
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
Share

Interesting times

Share

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

Share

Monday reading: The Bonding Spell

Share

By M.L. Doyle

The #covisolation solution continues on BestSelling Reads. M.L. Doyle returns to read from The Bonding Spell, the first book in her Desert Goddess series.

The Bonding Spell

Hester Trueblood can’t deny having an ancient, Sumerian goddess in her head has its perks.

She enjoys her new strength and fighting abilities, things that would have
been useful when she was a soldier. And the two handsome men dedicated to serving and protecting her are a nice bonus too.

On the other hand, there are drawbacks.

Having Inanna’s voice inside her head 24/7 can be annoying, and the constant threat of demons and monsters is a dangerous nuisance. The bitchy goddess and the evil hordes are problems Hester can handle, but the adoration of a demigod has Hester off balance.

None of that matters when an old secret threatens to destroy
Hester’s family. To battle the goddess of witchcraft, Hester will need all
of Inanna’s powers along with the help of her devoted soldiers—and even a
love-struck demigod—if she wants to survive.

M.L. Doyle

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

Share

Pandemic tales

Share
Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

Monday musings by bestselling authors

Hopefully, we will soon live in post-pandemic world. But we all know that everything has changed. So much of what we once thought of as “normal” is now over and done.

How will this affect the stories and books we love to read? BestSelling Reads authors weigh in on how the Covid-19 pandemic will influence their writing in the future.

Scott Bury, mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, biography

Scott Bury

I anticipate writing about situations where isolation and physical distancing will be story elements. Relationships and gatherings will be changed. At least, there will be a current of concern about risks. At the very least, a character will have to think a second and a third time before getting close to a stranger, starting a new relationship, or before tackling a bad guy.

David C. Cassidy

David C. Cassidy, horror

I’ve actually given this a lot of thought as I work on my current book. If we find we’re living in a post-Covid world where masks are the norm, do we need to mirror that in our stories? I think it’s a personal choice for every writer or director.

Of course, we’d all like to write “realistic” stories that reflect reality, but for me, I’m going to write as if masks aren’t the norm. If that’s not depicting reality, I can live with that. I think readers will, too, and most, if not all, would prefer it that way. They want us to give them an escape from the everyday, not a dose of ugly reality, especially when it comes to entertainment.

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

Raine Thomas

I’m with David on this topic. I write fiction (and romantic fiction, at that). My readers want to escape from their everyday realities, so I don’t intend to write about a world in the grips of a pandemic where my characters have to wear masks and stay six feet apart. That said, I do feel this experience will change how many authors develop future projects.

Alan McDermott

Alan McDermott, action-thrillers

I don’t plan to include Covid-19 in any of my future works. My books have imaginary presidents in alternate reality timelines, so no need to drag this up again. I’m sure people will be sick of reading about it by the time it’s over. As for what life will be like, I think everyone will get pretty much back to normal before too long. I’d like to think there would be major changes, like a higher minimum wage to reflect on the importance of ‘menial’ jobs that are keeping the country going, but I doubt that will happen.

DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden: romance, mystery, fantasy

I think the biggest changes for my personal writing will be on the marketing side and focusing on engaging with readers online. It’s something I’ve slacked on the past few years, and being stuck at home has reminded me of how important having that community is.

As far as writing about situations reflecting the lockdown, I’ve already seen a few “love in lockdown” type books pop up, but I think portrayals will focus mainly on business and activities and less so on relationships. We all still need to connect, and physical contact is a huge part of that.

I do think a lot of people and businesses are realizing the benefits of teleworking and virtual events, though, so I think that will be featured in fiction more often now.

J.L. Oakley

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction, cozy mysteries

I agree with what’s been said. I write historical fiction and cozy mysteries. I could fix those four cozy mysteries.

Sometimes there is hard stuff in the stories as part of the action—my WWII in particular—but I won’t be writing about mask. I always say that I write about characters who stand up for something in their own times, whether its resistance in WWII, women going against the norm and climbing mountains, or being present in multi-cultured pacific NW in the 1860s.

I plan to write a sequel to Tree Soldier showing women in the Forest Service during the war. I am looking for different ways to reach readers. Doing a Zoom talk to the Sons of Norway Lodge with Powerpoint has shown me a way to connect. There was even a member in Nord Kapp, Norway.

Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods, mystery, thriller, comic thriller

Interesting question, and some interesting answers. I write crime novels to escape reality, and I think that’s what most readers are looking for: an escape.

At least in the near term, I don’t think the good (and bad) folks of Forney County will have to deal with masks or social distancing. As the death toll from Covid-19 grows more personal, the topic is too raw. However, a virus-ridden world could make things interesting from the perspective of crimes committed and how they’re solved. We’ll just have to see how the stories unfold.

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

There are times when you don’t know what the future holds. My parents experienced that in WWII. My father was a submariner in the North Atlantic, chasing U Boats, seeking to avoid depth charges launched by German destroyers. My mother served in Air Raid Protection (ARP), driving an ambulance during air raid attacks on Birmingham, UK. They had no idea how that war would end: in success and democracy, or failure under a Nazi dictatorship.

My generation has been blessed up till now. We’ve never known a time when we’ve had to face existential uncertainty of that order. Our problems and heartaches have been strictly second order. Until now.

The road ahead is at a junction. And we face the kind of existential uncertainty my parents and many generations before them faced. One road leads to a successful vaccine. Then our blessed lives will return and return quite quickly. The other road leads to a world where we will need to live in the shadow of Covid-19, making changes to how we live and relate to each other with far reaching outcomes that will affect how we write as much as everything else. Until we know which fork in the road we will take my art continues as before.

If the outcome is long-term containment of the virus, I’m sure my art will change along with so much else in what we’ve been able to take for granted up till now.

What do readers think?

Do you want to see the pandemic reflected in stories and novels in the future? In mysteries, science-fiction or romance tales? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Share

A Bestselling response

Share
Photo by Nadine Johnson on Unsplash

Your favorite bestselling authors are reaching out from #covisolation

The novel coronavirus pandemic is changing everything. Even bestselling authors are not exempt from the urgency of isolation and physical distancing.

So at BestSelling Reads, we’re combining physical distancing with social media engagement. Followers of our Facebook page know that our members have been reading live from their books every week to help readers break up the #covisolation.

So far:

  • Mary Doyle has read from her groundbreaking book, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, the true story of Shoshana Johnson, the first black female U.S. soldier to be captured in combat.
  • Alan McDermott has treated us to a reading from his brand-new Motive, a tale that weaves together a disgraced British soldier, a suspect cop, an engraver and other realistic characters into a thrilling crime story.

And we’re keeping up the pace. Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, DelSheree Gladden will give us a live reading from her very funny Trouble Magnet, the first Eliza Carlisle mystery.

One week after that, Scott Bury will read from his first published novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth, on Tuesday, April 14.

And every Tuesday, you will get more live readings, at least until we’re through the Covid-19 response and can get back to something like normal—or maybe even better times.

Watch this space and Facebook for updates.

Changes to the blog

Because we’re posting live readings on Tuesdays, we’ll be changing the regular Monday Musings for the time being.

Keep coming back to the blog every Monday to watch the recordings of the previous Tueday’s reading.

Here are the previous readings:

M.L. Doyle, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen.

Alan McDermott, Motive.

Share