Monday musings: The difference between imagination and memory

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Photo: Photo by Vidar Kristiansen on Unsplash

What’s the difference between the way a writer imagines a realistic scene, and the way a reader experiences something? Could it be similar to the difference between the way we watch a motion picture about, say, a day at the lake, and the way we remember a day at the lake?

I sometimes edit novels for other writers, looking for ways to improve the story and the way it’s told, without changing the author’s voice.

I have noticed I often change or suggest a change to a particular kind of writing: excessive description of a sequence of small actions. They’re little things that happen in a story, but that the reader doesn’t need to read. And it makes me think about the difference between the way we remember and the way we imagine.

I’ll make up an example here:

She pulled the lever and opened the car door. She stepped onto the dirt driveway in front of the summer cabin, and walked past the old porch in front. She passed the little cedar trees that had never grown very high, past the big old maple and down to the wooden dock. She walked to the end, and sat down on the boards. She removed her sandals and dipped her bare feet into the lake, only to jerk them out—cold!

It’s way too wordy. Sure, it describes what happened. It takes the reader through all the action. But it doesn’t actually bring the reader into the setting. And do we really need to read every single action?

When I think back to summer days at the lake, I don’t really think of long sequences. My memories are things like seeing my grandfather standing in his wooden boat, tinkering with something in his hands as the boat bobbed gently on the water. Or the backs of my father and grandfather, looking up at the big tin barrel that collected rainwater as the wind rippled the backs of their shirts. Or sitting on a dull, cloudy afternoon on a big rock over the shore, my uncle beside me, holding a toy fishing rod in my hand.

Which brings me to the original question: what’s the difference between imagination and memory?

It’s an important question, as things like “false memory syndrome” have a bearing on criminal cases. And maybe it’s part of the profound influence of motion pictures on our whole society.

Think about the passage above. It’s not from any particular book, but it’s typical of what I tend to tell a writer to re-write. And it’s kind of cinematic. It might be the way a screenwriter would provide instructions to a cinematographer. It has all the action, something that an actor and a camera operator could follow.

This is how I remember arriving at my grandfather’s summer cottage.

Thin fir boles and low-hanging evergreen branches framed the back of the cottage. The tires crunched softly over the dirt and forest litter before the car bounced to a stop. I popped out of the back seat—no thought of seat belts then—to be greeted by the scent of forest and water and the outhouse tucked behind a thin screen of bushes.

I ran around the log cabin, reaching out to touch the structure supporting the tin barrel that collected rainwater. The lake gleamed far below the cabin, separated by a steep slope crowded with dark evergreens and lighter deciduous bushes. A bright leopard frog leaped away, into the bushes as my sneaker-clad feet made soft drumbeats on the beaten ground of the path down to the dock.

See? Flashes, like the “Live” setting on photos on my iPhone these days. Not a long cinematic sequence.

What do you think? Are your memories more like cinematic sequences, or short live photographs?

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Book publishing trends readers need to know

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Photo by Laëtitia Buscaylet on Unsplash

Publishing is evolving rapidly. There’s been a lot of chatter, real and virtual, about what the changes in technology and markets mean for authors and publishers. But in this space, we’re going to look at how some of them will affect readers.

Independently wealthy?

Last April, Amazon reported that over 1,000 independent authors made more than $100,000 in KDP royalties in 2017. That is, more and more authors are able to make respectable livings solely from their books.

What this means for readers is that more writers are able to give up their day jobs and concentrate on writing more. So you’ll have more to read from your favorite authors.

More diversity

A panel discussion at the Book Expo in New York last year pointed out that publishing is getting more diverse: more writers and publishers are realizing that their market is not just straight, white, relatively affluent women and men.

Readers can expect to see more cultures represented not only among authors, but also in the books their produce. In other words, it’s going to be easier to find books that reflect your reality.

Wider buying choices

There are also more platforms for e-book publishing. You would have thought there were enough with Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. Newer entrants to the field include Draft2Digital, Findaway Voices, Book Baby, Booktango, Nu-book and more. Some are spin-offs or evolutions of vanity publishing firms like IUniverse, while others seem to be more closely related to book marketing services.

What it means for readers is more choice of where to get your books. Sure, Amazon is by far and away the leader, and will continue to be for a long time. But no one stays at number 1 forever. Not even the Zon.

More marketing


Photo by Josh Edgoose on Unsplash

While we’re on the topic Amazon, several publishing pundits have predicted that its advertising programs are going to get more important. Amazon made a number of changes last year that affected independent authors, such as cancelling the Kindle Worlds, and changing the book suggestions that appear under a title you’re looking at.

Authors, especially indies, are already using AMS ads more, and spending more money on it. Eventually, they’ll get better at managing their ads. Expect to see more of your favorite authors using them, and to get more ads that are better directed to your interests—whether you want that or no.

Competition drives quality

With more authors making a living and more choices for making and selling books, there are more books being produced more quickly than ever before. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better.

Written Word Media surveyed readers who subscribe to a number book promotional services. They found a common complaint about the numbers of typographical and grammatical errors in independently published books. Low quality can make some readers give up before finishing a book, and even if they persevere through to the end, they aren’t like to come back for the same author’s next book.

Hopefully, this will sink in among authors and drive up the quality.

More audio

Photo by Findaway Voices on Unsplash

Audio book sales grew strongly in 2017 and 2018, and most analysts are expecting that to continue. Harper Collins saw audiobook sales rise 55 percent in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017. Audiobook fans are going to have more to listen to, from both commercial publishers and independent authors.

More innovation

It’s impossible to predict with any certainty what is going to be the “biggest thing” this coming year. Doubtlessly, some author will come up with an innovation that will stun even the biggest players in the marketplace, and reinvent book writing or marketing.

Maybe some of you have already noticed it. Share the news with us!

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Monday musings: Tell us what you want

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Your favorite bestselling authors want to hear from you. What do you love to read most?

Are you a romantic? Do you love solving mysteries before the big reveal at the end? Do you love discovering the new worlds of fantasy and the universes of science fiction?

Is all your reading in one genre, or do you like more than one? Do you like it when an author crosses genre boundaries, or blends more than one?

We want to know what you love to read so that we can tailor our news and updates to your desires. All you have to do is fill out the form on the right-hand column. Of course, we promise to keep your information private and never sell or give it to anyone else.

What’s in a genre?

Romance has traditionally been the biggest-selling genre, but as of 2017, Statistica and Nielsen BookScan data showed that the crime-mystery category has surpassed romance in terms of sales and numbers of titles published.

Fortunately, we have a lot of bestselling authors of great crime/mystery/thriller novels to satisfy your cravings.

We’ll be showcasing them over the coming weeks as we move out of Romance Month into BestSelling Reads’ Mystery Month.

Toby Neal

One of our most popular members, Toby Neal has published 22 mystery/thriller novels in two series, Lei Crime and Paradise Crime. There are also two companion novels in the Lei Crime series.

While love and relationships are essential themes in her mysteries, Toby explores the romance genre in her Second Chance Romance series. She is also the co-author of the Scorch Road series of post-apocalyptic thrillers.

Read more on her BestSelling Reads author page.

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby has written the James Blake mystery-thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More. He has also written three other stand-alone mysteries, and explores science fiction in Double Bind.

Read more on his BestSelling Reads author page.

Caleb Pirtle III

With more than 50 books published, Caleb Pirtle III is BestSelling Reads’ most prolific author. He is always pushing boundaries and exploring new ground. His latest mystery is Bad Side of a Wicked Moon, the second Boomtown Mystery.

Read more on his BestSelling Reads author page.

Scott Bury

Wildfire: Wine Country Mystery #1 by Scott Bury

Scott Bury loves to write novels that cross genre boundaries. Love and relationships feature prominently in his mysteries, and his first novel is an epic fantasy set in a real time and place. Meanwhile, has written a number of linked short stories that combine mystery and the occult, and hopes to build them into a novel one day.

Read more on his BestSelling Reads author page.

J.L. Oakley

Best-known for historical fiction, Janet Oakley has also published the Hilo Bay series of cozy mysteries: Coconut Island, Volcano House and Hilina Pali feature Auntie Bee Takahashi solving crimes on the tropical paradise of the Island of Hawai‘i.

Read more on her BestSelling Reads author page.

M.L. Doyle

Our newest member has written three full-length military mystery novels featuring Master Sergeant Lauren Harper. She also explores fantasy in her Bonding Spell series, as well as erotica in her Limited Parnerships series.

Read more on her BestSelling Reads author page.

Gae-Lynn Woods

A Case of Sour Grapes - mystery by Gae-Lynn Woods

From East Texas, Gae-Lynn Woods explores the dark side with her Cass Elliot mystery series, The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood. She has also stepped into the lighter side with her Cass Elliot companion novel, A Case of Sour Grapes.

Read more on her BestSelling Reads author page.

DelSheree Gladden

writes in multiple genres. In addition to the Eliza Carlisle Mystery series, she writes contemporary romance, fantasy, new adult and young adult fiction and the romantic suspense series, Torino Dreams.

Read more on her BestSelling Reads author page.

What do you love?

Do you love mysteries or crime novels? Tell us using the quick and easy survey form so that we can make sure you don’t miss any news or bestselling new books.

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The end of romance

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Romance Month, that is

It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the end of February. It’s a short month that somehow manages to feel like the longest of the year, yet slip through our fingers like late afternoon sunlight through vertical blinds.

Much of the world seems to have been afflicted with stay-indoors weather this month. Snow, wind, freezing rain—it doesn’t look like anyone has escaped, no matter where they live.

On the other hand, it’s been a good month for cozying up, with a good friend or a good book, or even both at once. (Add in cheery fire and a glass or two of red wine and I’m there.)

Romance isn’t going anywhere

Whatever you may think about the romance genre, it’s big. In the U.S. alone in 2017, readers bought some 21.5 million romance books, a close second behind suspense-thrillers at 21.8 million. Year after year, romance account for a fifth of all adult fiction sales.

Romance Month 2019 was good to BestSelling Reads authors and readers. We’ve sampled some sweet and some spicy scenes from DelSheree Gladden and Gae-Lynn Woods, M.L. Doyle, Scott Bury, Raine Thomas and Samreen Ahsan.

Other member authors told us about how romance fits into their books, often in ways readers don’t expect—but that they delight in. Like Alan McDermott, Toby Neal, Caleb Pirtle III and Corinne O’Flynn.

Now it’s ending, but don’t worry—there’s still lots of great stuff to look forward to from your favorite BestSelling Reads authors.

April is going to be mystery-thriller month, and we’ll be featuring some writing that puts you on a roller coaster. In June and July, we’ll showcase our best beach and dockside reading for you. And the fall will bring—what else?—horror, science-fiction and fantasy. And we’re going to end the year with some reading you’ll be proud to give as gifts.

What’s your favorite reading genre?

Your answers will help us make sure we continue to bring you the kind of books you love, while surprising you with authors who know how to break the boundaries. Just click on the form in the right-hand column.

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BSR Romance Month: What’s so great about romance, anyway?

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Romance is the biggest genre in publishing by a long shot. It’s as if the reading world just cannot get enough stories about love, longing, heartache, soaring joy, crushing sorrow and all the big emotions of romance.

But why? What is it about this big, yet ephemeral thing called romance? What pulls so many people from all around the world, to this genre over and over again?

BestSelling Reads asks some of its members: what’ so great about romance? And what’s wrong with it?

Mary Doyle

Author of military mysteries and urban fantasies with a strong romance current, says “The best thing about romance writing is that the fans of the genre are loyal, ravenous fans who gobble up books one after another.

“The worst thing about romance writing is that the fans know the genre so well, that if you fall back on well-known and boring tropes, they will call you on it and not in a good way. Romance fans are demanding and loyal and deserve the best a writer can create for them.”

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Alan McDermott

Author of bestselling action-thrillers, says “The best thing about romance is that you can base it on your own life. You can’t always do that with action thrillers.”

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

Raine Thomas

Author of several series of books in which love and romance is the leading theme, mixed with sports, music or fantasy, knows a thing or two about romance.

“The best thing about romance, especially in today’s world, is it focuses on the most positive and uplifting aspects of life,” she says.

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Corinne O’Flynn

Author of bestselling mysteries as well as urban and paranormal fantasies, is a strong defender of the romance genre.

“The best thing about romance is the ability it has to raise hope (with all the feels!) in just about anyone,” she says.

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Samreen Ahsan

Author of bestselling and award-winning paranormal and romance novels, says “The best thing about writing romance genre is that your readers easily fall in love with your characters and wish those characters to be a part of their lives, like having a book boyfriend from your romance novel.

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Scott Bury

Author of erotic romances, mysteries and fantasy, says “The bad thing about romance is that some authors—none of the members of BestSelling Reads, mind you—think that the literary rules of the romance genre is an excuse to be less than original.

“The great thing about romance is that a really good romance speaks to the most important questions in everyone’s life: who do you love and what does that make you do?”

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

DelSheree Gladden

This prolific author of mysteries, romance, fantasy and comedy—and some books that mix them all—says “The best thing about romance is that is reminds you of the importance of connecting with people on a deeper level.”

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Toby Neal

The author of two bestselling mystery-thriller series plus a series of family romances says “The best thing about romance is that, no matter what happens, there’s a happy ending.”

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Gae-Lynn Woods

The author of some dark mysteries, as well as a very funny mystery with love and relationships at the core, believes in romance. “The best thing about romance is when flawed people living flawed lives find that happiness does not depend on perfection.”

Visit her BestSelling Reads author page.

Caleb Pirtle III

Multiple award-winning and bestselling author of over 50 book, Caleb Pritle III sums it up.

“Romance is what you hope to find. Love is when you find it.”

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

Why do you read romance?

Do you like to read romance? Or do you avoid it like … a bad romance? Tell us why in the Comments and you’ll be entered in a draw for a free book from one of our members!

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It’s Romance Month

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Image courtesy Creative Commons

February is usually the coldest month of the year on the northern side of the equator. Maybe that’s why Valentine’s Day is in the middle of it: to raise the temperature with thoughts of love, and plenty of books, too.

Why do authors write romance as scenes or themes, or sometimes, whole books? Some members who don’t typically write romance have some thoughts.

M.L. Doyle

When I read a book, whether it’s mystery, thriller, science fiction or fantasy, and there isn’t a little bit of romance in it, the lack of it seems off to me.

Aside from writing the occasional erotica story, I never set out to write romance. When I start a new project, I’m writing mystery or urban fantasy, and the romantic stuff is what happens when I put my characters in a room together. I honestly never feel as if I’m making them fall in love, or get naked with each other. They simply do it on their own and I’m just along to describe it as best I can. In other words, if the romance isn’t organic in the story, I’m not going to make it up.

Do I read romantic literature? Sure. I’ve read piles of romance, from the tame to the downright taboo. Some of it is really compelling.

I read a story about a couple who are about to get married, when one of the man’s old friends shows up. Long story short, they become this threesome. They love each other and they have to figure out how they are going to appear to the outside world. Are they married? Is one just a friend? What happens if she gets pregnant? How do they tell who the father is? And won’t the third guy just always feel like the outsider? It went way beyond the usual romantic elements and was really engaging and well written.

Other stories seem to try too hard.

I think all literature is supposed to move us in some way. If it doesn’t move you, why read it? Romance moves you in specific ways; maybe goes out of its way to manufacture those emotions, but so do horror and thriller and mystery. There’s a lot of bad, trite, trashy romance out there, but there are also gems that reel you in and don’t let go.

I laugh now at how many men are enjoying the show Outlander. When those books came out, they were considered romantic adventure. In any case, they were considered to be well into the romance category and therefore, not “real” literature. Now that they’re on the screen, maybe men won’t be so quick to turn their noses up at the other romantic works.

Alan McDermott

There’s no hard and fast recipe for a successful thriller, but most of the ingredients are the same: a capable, relatable protagonist; a believable villain; lots of action; plenty of intrigue.  One thing that wouldn’t have been high on my list was romance, but looking back, my heroes have had their fair share.

Tom Gray started out a married man, but that lasted one chapter.  Two books later, he had a new love interest, Vick.  Once again, fate intervened, and I must have subconsciously decided to leave him a single man for the duration.  He never found love again, but my new character made up for it.

Eva Driscoll first appears in Run and Hide.  She’s single, but when events conspire to reunite her with an old lover, she soon picks up where she left off. Fast forward to the next book, and the thriller gods have their own plans for the pair.

The last of my characters to get romantic is Simon “Sonny” Baines.  He’s painted as a ladies’ man throughout the series, but never actually got to know anyone.  That is, until my newest offering, Fight to Survive.  Will he get the girl of his dreams?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

Scott Bury

Love and some kind of romance are common to all people, in all cultures, through all time. So a romance can be a part of any kind of story.

I find that a lot of romance stories, especially the big-selling ones, are too predictable. I prefer a story where I don’t see the relationship budding before my eyes. At the same time, I don’t like stories where two personalities who would never be attracted to each other in the real world fall in love despite all the obstacles.

While I don’t set out to write romance (okay, that one time), when I start to write a story, I think about who the characters are, who they are or could be attracted to. Then I can have a lot of fun as I put challenges in front of them. Love or a relationship can grow as two people (or maybe more) work or fight through a challenge. On the other hand, difficulty can destroy a relationship, as we see all the time.

What do you say?

Do you read romance? Tell us why do you do, or why you avoid it, and tell us why in the Comments below. Every one who leaves a comment gets a free e-book from one of our members.

I see my job as a writer as bringing my readers into the story, and making them see what the characters see, feel what they feel, in a way they can believe and that resonates with their own experiences, fears and desires.

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