Fishnet shirts and memory

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Monday musings
By DelSheree Gladden

BestSelling Reads authors are exploring the intersections between their own personal memories and their writing. This week, the author of the Eliza Carlisle, Girl’s Handbook and Date Shark series muses about the weird things she has seen that inspired her.

One of the ways memory affects my writing is all the little details that get stored away in my brain over the years. Sometimes, I even make notes on my phone about odd or funny or unusual things I see or hear. Most of them just sit there and I forget about them, but more often than you might think, these little tidbits provide some inspiration for part of a story.

This happens most when I’m trying to develop or flesh out characters. I meet a lot of interesting people through work. They tell me about their lives, their jobs, and the crazy things that happen to them. A friend once told me that she was a building manager and had to clean up an apartment after a resident was murdered. That helped to inspire a scene in the first Eliza Carlisle Mystery book, Trouble Magnet, where Eliza’s best friend and building manager, Sonya, is left responsible cleaning up after a murder and isn’t very happy about it.

There are also cases where a random experience inspires something bigger than a scene or a character trait. A lecture from a high school history lessen about how Aztec human sacrifices of children were largely incorrect popped back into my head years later and got me interested in the culture and mythology of the Aztecs … which led to my first novel, Escaping Fate, where Arrabella must uncover the truth of her family’s curse before she is set to die on her sixteenth birthday.

My favorite things to take note of throughout the day, are instances that make me stop and realize how unique people are. For example, I was meeting a friend at the theater last week and got out of my car just as a large Native American man slowly drove by in a sporty little sedan with his windows rolled down, blasting Sinatra. Everything about that experience would have been completely average if he’d been playing rap or even country music. Sinatra? However this guy was introduced to Sinatra, he loved it enough to share it with everyone else in the mall parking lot. I’m sure there’s a story behind his music choice. I won’t ever know what it was, but I can certainly create one that will interest my readers!

Writing fiction always holds the challenge of creating a believable world and characters without making it so realistic that it becomes mundane. Rather than writing a scene about a character walking across a parking lot, lost in her thoughts about whatever is about to happen, interrupt her musings with an odd encounter that will take her thoughts in a different direction, or cause her to notice something important. Storing away little goofy memories helps me bring uniqueness, as well as real life, into my writing.

Someday, a female character wearing a black fishnet shirt (completely see-through), with two sparkly shells sewn on in just the right place to keep her decent in public, is going to make an appearance in one of my books. So keep an eye out for her.

DelSheree Gladden,

USA Today Bestselling Young Adult and Romance Author, loves books—reading them and writing them.

Fiction makes it possible to survive reality.

Writing is her escape, and she has escaped to Aztec temples in the Escaping Fate Series, into Native American myths in the Twin Souls Saga, to a dystopian reality in The Destroyer Trilogy, into invisibility in The Aerling Series, into wicked desires in the Someone Wicked This Way Comes Series, into wacky mysteries in the Eliza Carlisle Mystery Series, and into sweet romances in The Date Shark Series and the Handbook Series.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.

Get to know DelSheree better on:

And follow her on Twitter @Delsheree.

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Books and memory

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Over the next few weeks, BestSelling Reads authors will explore how their own memories inform their writing. In this installment, Scott Bury describes how the memory of his father-in-law and the subject of his Eastern Front trilogy meshed with a childhood recollection of his wife, and how it all fit into one of his books.

Going through some old papers and memoriabilia of my wife’s parents, we found a picture from World War II—it’s 78 years old. It’s a picture that my wife said she remembered seeing when she was a little . It’s also a picture that Maurice Bury told me about before he passed away: a picture taken in a small town in western Ukraine as it suffered under the Nazi occupation.

I wish I had found this photo years ago, before I published the first edition of Army of Worn Soles. You can bet it will be in the next edition.

It’s a photograph of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, on the day he returned to his village of Nastaciv, Ukraine, after escaping from the German POW camp in late 1941. The woman beside him is his cousin, Tekla, who was named after her aunt, Maurice’s mother. Tekla was the first family member who met Maurice on his return home.

Here’s the story as told by Maurice, years ago

Even though it was wartime, the market bustled as farmers sold the last of their harvests: corn, wheat, parsley, apples, pears, onions and beets. Townspeople pressed through the stalls, haggling over vegetables, chickens and animal feed. Behind a stall selling eggs stood a slim woman whose dark brown hair threatened to burst the knot in her kerchief.

Maurice tapped her on the shoulder. “Hello, Tekla.”

The woman spun to face him, expecting trouble. She glared at him for several seconds before her eyes widened. “Maurice? My god, I cannot believe it.” She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tight. She had to lean over her table of eggs, but she held on. Maurice hugged back, wary of knocking eggs down. When she let him go, she looked at him as if she were afraid he was about to vanish again. “What are you doing here?”

Tekla was his cousin, daughter of Myhailo Kuritsa, his mother’s brother. She had been named after her aunt.

“I’m coming home. Can you give me a ride?” he asked.

She threw her arms around him again. “Of course, Maurice, of course. Oh, I can’t believe it. We heard you’d been…been killed.” She held him at arm’s length. “You’re so thin. You must have been starving.” She called to the woman in the stand next to hers, who had been staring at them. “Hanyah, please, sell the eggs for me.”

“Of course, dear. Take the young man home and give him something to eat. Right away,” Hanyah said. She was older than Maurice’s mother, and Maurice did not know her, but she smiled at him as if he were a grandchild she had not seen for a year.

Tekla re-tied her scarf and pulled on her gloves, took Maurice by the hand and led him out of the market. “My wagon is over here,” she said, then stopped. “You know what we should do, Maurice? Let’s get a picture together.”

“Can’t we…”

Army of Worn Soles cover

But Tekla interrupted, took his hand and led him through the market to a small shop, where she paid a few rubles for a picture. The photographer had Maurice sit on a stool in front of a cloth draped against the wall, and posed Tekla standing next to him. Tekla could not stop smiling, nor babbling.

“I can’t wait to see Auntie’s face when she sees you standing on her doorstep. Oh, and my father, too. It’s too bad your father is not here, Maurice. He would be so relieved, so happy to know you’re home safe. Are you sure this is my better side?” She asked the photographer as he adjusted the camera. He smiled, nodded and calmly pressed the shutter.

“The print will be ready on Thursday,” the photographer said and handed Tekla a ticket. “Welcome back, friend,” he said to Maurice.

How it got here

The print was promised for that Thursday in 1941, 78 years ago. It’s suffered a little over the years, and it will appear in a new edition of Army of Worn Soles as well as the single-volume edition of the Eastern Front trilogy.

What about you readers? Have you ever read a book that meshed with your own personal memories?

Scott Bury

Scott Bury’s military biography trilogy comprises Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War. It’s the true story of a Canadian-born man drafted into the Soviet Red Army in World War II.

Scott Bury has also published two Hawaiian Storm mysteries, Torn Roots and Palm Trees & Snowflakes. Another mystery, Wildfire, is set in California during the wine country wildfires of 2017.

His first published novel is a historical fantasy, The Bones of the Earth.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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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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