Happy Labor Day from your favorite BestSelling authors

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The impact of travel

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Part 3 of our series on how travel has inspired our members to write new stories and books.

By Caleb Pirtle III

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

I spent much of my early career writing travel stories for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and then Governor John Connally’s Texas Tourist Development Agency.

They were simple, traditional travel stories that told a vacationer where to go, how to get there, and what the cost would be when the family arrived.

When I became travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, however, all of my thoughts about travel abruptly changed.

I had come to a crossroads and took an entirely different direction..

We won two Discover America Awards because I turned our travel columns into short stories.

All true.

All authentic.

Just told from a new and different point of view.

Those days of travel writing remain with me still even though I no longer write travel.

But I remember the places.

I remember the characters.

I remember the faces.

I remember the stories those characters told me while sitting out whistling and whittling on a courthouse lawn or wedged into the back corner of country honky-tonk sipping a beer.

As the years go by, those characters remain in a locked room in the back of my brain, a place I refer to as central casting.

No matter what kind of character my novels need – hero, heroine, villain, or bit player – one is hanging around and waiting to be thrown onto the printed page.

The following travel story about Maine’s Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse was printed in Confessions from the Road, a collection of true short stories gleaned from my time as a travel editor.

***

IT BEGAN with a storm.

Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse. Photo by John Shaw.

Nothing fierce.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

It was little more than a gale blowing across the sea during the chilled evening of March in 1871. A ship’s captain battled the winds, fighting the swells of the Atlantic, headed toward the distant shore hugging the coastline of Maine.

It wasn’t far now.

He could see the splinter of beam from the lighthouse flashing at him.

Only a half a mile to go.

Only a half a mile from safety.

The ship suddenly trembled, and the captain heard the deadly, cracking of lumber breaking hard and in agony against the rock ledge.

The captain’s muscles tightened.

The ship was taking on water.

It was quiet for a moment.

Then came the screams.

Only a half a mile to go.

He would never make it.

Even the screams died away.

The cold, bitter sea water churned around his knees and kept rising.

The winds battered his ship.

The rains lashed at his face.

One last scream.

Then the ominous sound of night when there is no sound at all.

Early the next morning, as faint shards of light swept the shoreline, the keeper of Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse and his wife began picking through the debris that had washed upon the rocks.

A dying ship was a rest.

A captain, his crew, and his passengers had been drawn to the unforgiving ebony floor of the Atlantic.

No hope.

No prayers.

No survivors.

He stopped.

The keeper heard a faint and gentle cry in the wind. He and his wife found a feather mattress bound with a rope. It held a tiny cargo, a wooden box, and wedged inside was a baby girl. She was alone but had not been abandoned.

Some heart-broken mother had done her best to save the baby, to cast her to the sea and pray that the ocean would not claim her.

There had been a prayer.

And a survivor.

The family of the lighthouse kept her as its own.

They looked for any trace of the mother until all traces had been washed away and buried by the sea.

But on some nights when the sky is dark, and a gale stalks the rim of the Atlantic, the silence is broken by a faint cry caught in the throat of a distant wind.

“It’s the mother,” I am told. “She walks among the rocks, and sometimes you can see her shadow outlined against the ocean. After all of these years, she is still searching for her baby.”

“Has anyone ever seen her face?”

“We only hear her grief.”

“She keeps coming back?”

“No.” There is a slight shrug. “She never left.”

It began with a storm.

So long ago.

It has yet to end.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

You can find Confessions from the Road on his website or on Amazon.

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Thursday teaser: The Eastern Front

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By Scott Bury

Maurice stepped to the table. “Good morning, sir. I know you’re busy, so I would like to quickly help you resolve an error—my draft letter is a mistake.” He put it on the table in front of the officer.

The officer looked up, arching one eyebrow. “That’s a new one. What kind of mistake?”

“I am not eligible for service, as I am not a citizen of the Soviet Union. I’m a Canadian.” He showed his birth certificate.

The officer struggled to sound out the Roman lettering. “Doh-meen-i-yon off Kanada,” he read. He frowned, then shook his head and looked Maurice straight in the eyes. “You are still required to report for duty, comrade.”

“But I’m a Canadian citizen.”

“It doesn’t matter, tovarisch. You live here now, and you must help defend the Motherland.” He was already looking at the next man in line. “Report to the train station by seven tomorrow morning or you’ll be arrested. Next.”

Maurice’s flash of anger was quickly replaced by a despairing acceptance. He had known all along the Soviet army would never care about such an insignificant detail as his citizenship.

He took the long way home, stopping in a café for hot tea as much for the warmth as to delay telling his family the bad news.

He returned to the little farm by lunchtime. Tekla and Hanya wept quietly when they heard. His mother even helped him pack warm clothes and tried to hold out some hope.

“Maybe there won’t be a war. Maybe you’ll serve your two years and then they’ll let you out, and then we can all go back to Canada.”

“Who would we go to war with, anyway?” Hanya asked, joining in. “Russia and Germany are allies now. Germany is fighting England, and they’re too far from us.” She did not mention what they all thought: Finland remained a dreaded enemy.

“That’s right,” Tekla said. “Germany is our ally. There’s no reason for Russia to fight them.”

Maurice agreed, and they sat down to a subdued supper. Tekla poured too much of her homemade vodka, and Maurice drank it all.

The next morning, the women drove Maurice to the train station in the horse-cart. His mother gave him a big basket of food for the journey east: sausage, bread, a small flask of hot tea, some apples left from the fall, a jar of preserves.

The train station was surrounded by military policemen carrying rifles. Maurice also saw other men in peaked caps with maroon bands—the NKVD, the Soviet security police. They strutted, ordering people around in rough and guttural Russian, smoking and looking officious.

The platform was crowded with young men and their families saying goodbye. Like Hanya and Tekla, all the inductees’ parents fussed over them. Mothers wept, fathers gave their sons brave smiles and manly kisses on each cheek.

Maurice thought of his father in Canada and wondered whether he worried about his family in Russian-dominated Ukraine.

“Write to us as soon as you’re settled and tell us where you are and how you’re doing. Please don’t forget, my dear,” Tekla said. She tucked his scarf closer around his neck. She had to stand on her toes to kiss his cheek. She cried, but Hanya smiled bravely.

“Be careful, Maurice. Look after yourself.”

The train rumbled and squealed into the station. MPs pushed the young men onto the cars. Maurice found a seat with three fresh-faced, silent young men, all holding baskets from their mothers, looking at him as if seeking some kind of hope or comfort.

Maurice waved at his mother and sister through the window as the train chuffed away. He felt lonelier than ever before. He patted a secret pocket he had sewn under the waist of his pants, inaccessible from the outside, which held his Canadian birth certificate.

He made himself a promise: he would never part with it until he got back to Montreal.

The Eastern Front Trilogy

A Canadian in the Soviet Red Army

He was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Drafted in the spring of 1941, Canadian-born Maurice Bury found himself facing Operation Barbarossa—the greatest land invasion in history.

Unprepared for the assault, the Soviets retreated and were captured by the millions at a time. By the fall, Maurice and his men were starving in a POW camp.

As the last of their strength ebbed, Maurice conspired to find an escape for himself and his men. After a nightmarish journey across Ukraine, he joined the underground resistance against the Nazi oppressors.

He risked death time after time, but he also found ordinary people who risked their own safety to help him. Not only in standing against the Nazis, but an even more dangerous ambition: to return home to Canada.

It’s a story that reads like fiction. It’s not.

The Eastern Front Trilogy is available as a paperback through Amazon or wherever books are sold.

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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Publication day for BestSelling Reads author Seb Kirby

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Canelo Publishing of Southwark, London, UK has just published the bestselling James Blake series by Seb Kirby.

  • Take No More
  • Regret No More
  • Forgive No More.

Founded in 2015 by a group of publishing professionals with extensive success in the publishing industry, Canelo describes itself as dedicated to finding the most exciting books and publishing them to the highest standard. 

In addition to its main list, Canelo also incorporates the Frisch & Co and Abandoned Bookshop imprints.

“It’s satisfying to see the James Blake series having the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” author Seb Kirby said.

Take No More

When James Blake discovers his wife murdered in their London home, he is determined to avenge her, and bring her killer to justice.

As the prime suspect, he flees England and sets out on a journey that takes him to Florence, Venice and into a shadowy underworld of death and corruption.

The trail that will lead him to the killer is filled with terrible danger, and will reveal a shocking conspiracy, behind both her death and a lost fortune.

A thrilling, original and fast-paced crime thriller set within the art world, perfect for fans of Ken Follett, Dan Brown and Harlan Coben.

Regret No More

No one can escape from the past.

James Blake and his family were safe and secure  – until he received a phone call that could mean only one thing: their enemies knew where they were.

A stolen Picasso lies at the heart of an international conspiracy that reaches into the life of a prominent US politician, with devastating consequences not only for him but for anybody who happens to be caught up in the crime.

Wolfgang Heller, a ruthless assassin, is seeking to eliminate those who have any knowledge of the theft. James must come out of hiding and face the threats to his family by putting his life, and the life of his brother Miles, on the line.

Forgive No More

No more running, no more hiding – it’s time to fight back.

The Blake family can only live in security if the truth about the conspiracy threatening their lives is brought into the full light of day.

As the stakes are raised higher than ever before, James must return to Italy to confront those seeking to destroy those he loves. Forces from around the world, from Washington to Munich, London to Tijuana, are ranged against him.

As the mystery begins to unravel, a shattering revelation emerges. Dark secrets have survived down the centuries and are in the hands of those who threaten not only him, but the entire world…

From international bestselling author Seb Kirby comes the pulse-pounding finale to the James Blake thriller series, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben, Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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I am a traveller

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By Samreen Ahsan

The author at the Castle of the Moors, Sintra, Portugal.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

This quote indeed fits on me as a writer. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and have incorporated them in my stories. Or, if I had wanted to add a particular place in my story setting, I try to visit it, later on, to experience it like my character. 

The CN Tower, Toronto

My first story: A Silent Prayer, a multiple award-winning romance novel is set in the city of Toronto, where I currently live. I have taken this city as an inspiration: the charming Christmas time, which I’ve always admired walking through the downtown streets, the sound of Christmas carols, the aroma of hot chocolate and lattes. I have tried to introduce the flavours and aromas of my multicultural city. 

Great Pyramids and Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Since childhood, I had always wanted to visit the Pyramid of Giza but never had a chance. I introduced my characters to the majestic city of Cairo first, entering through the narrow passage of the pyramid, and a provocative conversation with a four-thousand-year-old jinni. I visited the pyramids later on, after publishing the series. As intrigued as my characters, I stayed in the same hotel across the River Nile as them, and I climbed the same claustrophobic passage of the pyramid, and had the same experience as them, except for meeting the real Jinni 🙂 

I’m also an admirer of castles and palaces, regardless of their geographical locations, and stroll through them. These grand castles and palaces, where people once lived, breathed and died, have always inspired me. 

“To Travel is to Live”

Hans Christian Andersen

In my second story, Once Upon A [Stolen] Time,  which is set in both contemporary and medieval England, I have introduced a fictional Hue Castle, which is a character on its own, inspired by many different castles and palaces and the darker elements from the Beauty and the Beast. There are certain parts in the castle that I took from real European castles: some chambers, the dining hall, the Great Hall, the library and the chapel. I feel very close to my character Myra, who, like me, has wanderlust, loves visiting historical places, admires art and poetry from the past centuries and who has always wanted to live in those palaces. This same interest as my character helps me write about the things I have seen and make her experience in the same way as I did. 

Windsor Castle, England

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” —

Henry Miller

In my upcoming novel Unveiled, I have introduced the city of York, U.K. in England, which I visited during the Holiday season of 2016. I fell in love with the city and decided to add it to my next story. I didn’t have a story in my mind at the time, but I knew that whenever I’d write, I’d make my character live in York. When I travelled to Istanbul last year, in April 2018, I had a trip to Princess Island with my friends via ferry. When we headed back to Istanbul, I saw the golden hour through the ferry and wrote the ending of the novel in my mind by gazing at the sun setting down. I never knew a moment of sunset in such a crowded city of Istanbul would give me inspiration. 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Though I write fiction, the travel experience in my books belongs to my real travel diaries. I know I can’t write science fiction in a place that doesn’t exist at all, or that is impossible to exist, such as landing on Jupiter, or some unknown planet, meeting aliens, because they can never be a part of my travel expedition. I love visiting new places, encountering different cultures, tasting different foods and walking through the passage of time.

I love to give my readers a sense of longing for a certain place, the same way I have felt after leaving those beautiful destinations.

Some travel photos

About Samreen Ahsan

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today’s modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

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Launch day: Razor Rocks

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The newest Lei Crime novel launches today! Enjoy this sample and then buy it as an e-book from your preferred e-tailer.

By Toby Neal

Detective Sergeant Leilani Texeira clutched the dashboard of her partner Pono’s jacked up purple truck, affectionately nicknamed Stanley. “Can you slow down?” 

“No.” Pono changed gears. The cop light on the dash strobing, Stanley roared forward even faster as they zoomed down Highway 30 toward Ma`alaea Harbor, whipping around a line of rental cars. 

Lei shut her eyes. “Bruddah. Getting killed on the way to the harbor won’t find your cousin any faster, and besides, if we get in a wreck, Tiare will kill us both.” 

Pono’s formidably competent wife, Tiare, was not to be messed with. Her partner’s big brown hand tightened on the chrome skull that marked Stanley’s shifter, but he eased up on the gas pedal.

Lei sat back in her seat. “I know this is hard—but whatever’s happened has already happened. You gotta stay objective about the case, or Captain Omura will pull you off of it.”

Pono scowled, his pidgin thickening. “It’s my cuz. Not jus’ any kine cuz—dis my uncle’s oldest boy Chaz Kaihale. We been close since small kid time.”

“I know. Chaz is good people.” Lei touched Pono’s tense bicep, her fingers lightly brushing the slash of a scar where a tribal tattoo of interlocking triangles had been torn by a meth dealer’s bullet. She’d been so terrified when the man who was her brother in everything but name had been shot . . . “Tell me again what you know. Let’s get a plan before we meet with the Coast Guard.”

Pono blew out a breath and put both hands back on the wheel. The truck slowed to a reasonable rate at last. “Chaz called me from sea. Remember, he’s a captain and goes out with a couple of guys to crew luxury boats for Dream Vacations Luxury Yachts. Anyway, I wen get one call from him yesterday; he stay yelling. ‘Pono! You gotta help us! Get pirates coming!’ and then damn if the phone didn’t cut off.” Pono flexed his fingers. “Ho, I was laughing. I thought Chaz was pranking me cuz it was April first! But when I tried to call back, the call nevah go through. So I’m thinking, eh, he pranked me, but even with the satellite phone, half the time his calls get cut off.” Pono glanced over at Lei. Even with his favorite Oakleys hiding his eyes, she felt his pain. “Turns out, the call was legit.”

“You couldn’t have known! I mean, it was April Fools’ Day!” Drifts of wayward curls, whipping in the breeze from the partly open window, lashed Lei’s face. She bundled her hair back with a rubber band she spotted encircling the gearshift. 

“I should have tried harder to find out what was going on. Chaz, he one prankster, but I should have called the ship-to-shore radio at least . . . anyway, I did nothing. Then, just now, I get a call from that Coast Guard guy we worked that Molokini case with—Aina Thomas. Remember him? He called my cell, telling me they found the yacht my cuz was captaining washed up on the reef off Lana`i. No one on board, but get bloodstains.” Pono speeded up again.

“No, Pono, no . . .” Lei’s stomach lurched under the sensible black polo shirt she wore with jeans and athletic shoes. “You didn’t tell me anything but ‘go get in the car, we got a case involving my cuz.’ This is big, if it’s pirates. If it’s murder.”

“I know.”

“Are you sure Thomas was calling you as an investigator? Maybe he was calling you as a witness, because you and Chaz are close. He found your name listed somewhere in Chaz’s phone or something.”

Pono’s mouth just tightened, and Lei had her answer—Pono wasn’t thinking right now.

Lei needed to take charge. She dug a Maui Police Department ball cap out of the backpack, loaded with investigation paraphernalia, resting at her feet. She tugged the cap down low and tight on her head, and took out her phone. “I’ll call Captain Omura and brief her with what we know. And let me take the lead when we talk to Thomas. We got dis, partner.”

Razor Rocks

Paradise is plundered by pirates. Someone is attacking and robbing luxury yachts as they sail the Hawaiian Islands—their passengers missing and presumed dead.

Sergeant Lei Texeira, with her typical leap first, look later style, dives into a case with the Coast Guard to find answers that lie as deep as Davy Jones’ locker.

Lei is back, solving crime again! Grab this fast-paced mystery with a twist of romance, and take a trip to Hawaii with the series that’s sold more than a million copies!

Get this thrilling new e-book from:

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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