New book: The Quisling Factor

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The sequel to the award-winning The Jøssing Affair

By J.L. Oakley

Bestselling author and BestSelling Reads member J.L. Oakley has released the long-awaited sequel to her award-winning Second World War novel, The Jøssing Affair.

The first book told the story of the Norweigian jøssings, or patriots, who fought a resistance action against the occupying Nazi German forces during the Second World War. Aided by the “Shetland bus,” secret connections by civilian and partisan sailors across the North Sea, they risked their freedom and their lives, pursued by Nazis and Norwegian collaborators.

“When I first began my research for this sequel to The Jøssing Affair, I recalled the memoirs of several heroes in the Norwegian Resistance,” says author Janet Oakley. “They told of their dangers and grand adventures, but I was also struck by what they did after the war.

“In May 1945, ordinary Norwegian citizens wanted to get back to some of sort of normalcy. But first, they would have to relive the atrocities of the past five of occupation carried out by Germans and in some cases, their own countrymen. Beginning in the summer of 1945 war criminal trials began across the country. One of these quislings was Henry Oliver Rinnan.

“There are two historic stories going on in The Quisling Factor: the war crimes trial of Norwegian Henry Oliver Rinnan, a real-life monster who worked with the Gestapo out of Trondheim, Norway and the tragic story of Telavåg. Both real-life stories are what drives this sequel and its characters.”

About The Quisling Factor

Treason. Espionage. Revenge. In the aftermath of WWII, ex-intelligence agent Tore Haugland tries to adjust to life in his newly freed country with the woman he loves. But he still has to testify against a Norwegian traitor—one of the monsters of the German occupation—whom he helped to capture.
When mysterious notes threaten Haugland and his family, he must choose between protecting them or bringing to justice the man who tortured him and destroyed the village that hid him. Challenged by injuries and recurring nightmares, he will have to rely on his former training and old Resistance friends to rescue his wife from the traitor who will do anything to keep Haugland from testifying.

J.L. Oakley

has established a reputation for writing outstanding historical fiction set in the mid-19th century to the Second World War.

In 2013, she received the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award and the Chanticleer Grand Prize for Tree Soldier, a novel set in the Forest Service, a Depression-era program in the Pacific Northwest. In 2017, Janet won the Goethe Grand Prize for The Jøssing Affair, the 2018 Will Rogers Silver Medallion and two WILLA Silver Awards.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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Volcano House

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A Hawaiian mystery Thursday teaser

By J.L. Oakley

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Kilauea, Hawaii, 1889

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

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

Volcano House, 1877

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

Volcano House restored, now the Volcano Art Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good. Got to keep these things irregular.”

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

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

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

“Nuthin’. Just paper.”

“Let me see.”

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

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

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

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

“Ho’okena.”

Almeida’s eyes grew sharp and wary.

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

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

“Hey!”

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

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

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

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

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

Volcano House

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

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

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

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

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

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

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

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

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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A tree soldier in the Pacific Northwest

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A historical Thursday teaser from the novel

By J.L. Oakley

Camp Glacier

A couple of hours later, Hardesty was standing along the edge of the camp parade ground with the rest of his young squad mates. They all looked like they wanted to bolt.  He followed their line of sight. Behind the camp craggy, white mountains painted amber by the afternoon sun leered over trees most likely bigger than anything they’d ever seen. They had startled him too when he first came out. 

“Holy cow. Do you see them trees?” Costello dropped his duffle next to Hardesty with a thud.

“I see them,” Spinelli said on the other side of him. “Wonder which place is ours?”

Hardesty wondered too. The long wooden buildings lined up in neat rows looked no different from the last camp he had been in. Even the smoke brought the smell of roasted ham out of a building that suggested the cook house. It made his stomach growl.

A military type officer showed up with a clipboard and ordered the group to gather around. “Welcome to Camp Kulshan, F-23, one of the oldest Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the state of Washington. We make campgrounds, roads, bridges and fight fires. Three departments run it here: the Army, Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor. During your time here you’ll not only be sending money home to your folks, but will have the opportunity to finish high school and learn a trade. There’ll be more about that later. For now…”

Spinelli turned to Hardesty.  “That true about the girl and the bear?” he whispered.

“Where’d you hear that?” Hardesty was surprised news traveled so fast. 

“At the store. I didn’t know there were bears there. Only bear I seen was at the Bronx Zoo.”

“I think you’re safe,” Hardesty said. 

“…shots. You’ll line up at the infirmary and get your paperwork put away. Dinner is being held for you in mess.”

Spinelli slapped his arm. “I’m doomed.”

Hardesty followed the group into the barracks and once given the parameters of his new world, tossed his duffel on the nearest lower bunk. Identical to the last one he had been in, the barracks had double-decker bunks lining the fir plank walls on both sides, twenty-five to a side. The fir floors were worn and creaky. In the middle, trunks had been dragged in and left in a jumbled stack. He spied the worn army-drab one that was his.

My whole life’s in it. That’s all I have left.

“Hey,” Spinelli said. He held in his hand the mimeographed camp paper, The Mountain Call: An Avalanche of Events. “Mind if I go up?”

Photo by Devin Lyster on Unsplash

“Nope. The place is all yours.” Hardesty smiled. He liked Mario Spinelli the minute they met at the train station in Seattle. He acted tough, but he had seen the kid’s eyes when they left the train two hours later and headed east into the rugged Cascade Mountains. He was scared. The whole lot of them, their false bravado trying to cover the fact that they were about to meet their match: the forests of the Pacific Northwest.  For some reason, at the camp orientation, the kids started following him around.

Hardesty just wasn’t sure he wanted to be nursemaid. All he wanted to do was mind his own business and keep his head low.

Spinelli spread out his bedding and slapped his pillow before climbing down. “Do you remember where we take a leak?”

“Bath house. Out the front door to the left. How’s your arm?”

“Not a twinge,” he answered, even though he moved his shoulder like it had been struck with a bat.

Lights were out at 9:45. Taps called not long after. Soon the camp descended into snores and stirrings.  Except for a family of raccoons ambling forth in the direction of the mess hall’s garbage cans, no one was out. While the camp slept, the woods leaned over the buildings and grounds, jagged black guardians poking into the starry night sky. For once there was no hint of rain.

A faint light appeared at one of the barracks doors as a figure stepped out onto the small porch and slipped down the stairs. When he was sure of the direction he wanted to go, the flashlight went out. A few yards and he was in the forest.

It was chilly under the boughs of cedar and hemlock, a musky scent of lichen and moss caught in the damp air. At an old stump, some ten feet across, Hardesty found a spot on the other side, where he threw down his jacket on a log. When he became accustomed to the space around him, he turned the flashlight back on.

He didn’t like breaking curfew, but he had a hard time sleeping. Too much crowding in after a long day. Thirty hours ago he had been in Oregon. Now he was as far away as he could get without leaving a region he had grown to love. He hoped that he could start fresh again.

He took a brass medallion about the size of a silver dollar out of his pocket. He rubbed the hard, stamped surface between his fingers and read the words like Braille:

••LOYALTY•CHARACTER•SERVICE••

Honor Award

C.C.C.

The words rose in an arch over two wooden barracks set in the woods. Smoke from a chimney curled up to touch the middle “R” in the word “CHARACTER” overhead.

Hardesty knew the words by heart just like he knew the way the scars lay on the palms of his hands.

He had been proud when he was given it, but truth be told, some days he didn’t feel like he deserved it.

And why he ran away again.

Tree Soldier

One mistake can ruin a life. One mistake can transform it.

A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1935, Park Hardesty hopes for just that.

Blaming himself for the fiery accident that caused his brother’s disfigurement and the death of the bootlegging woman he loved, planting trees, building bridges and mentoring tough, homesick New Jersey boys brings him both penitence and the renewal of his own self-worth.

When he wins the love of Kate Alford, a local naturalist who envisions joining the Forest Service, which allows only men, he also captures the ire of a camp officer who refuses to let her go.

Just when he is ready to seek his brother’s forgiveness, he is falsely accused of rape. Every aspect of his life he has tried to rebuild is put in jeopardy.

In the end, the only way he can defend himself is to tell the truth about his brother, but he risks being kicked out of the camp. Worse, he could lose Kate’s love forever.

Get it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

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

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

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

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

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley13.

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Terror teaser: The Dark

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Spooktober continues on BestSelling Reads with this taste of the chilling novel

By David C. Cassidy

Harmon devoured a handful of hard candy before heading out. The wood-chopping went well, but when his bum hand grew strained he took a break to change his dressing. Sitting at his kitchen table he found his leg healing, but as he unraveled the next-to-last strand of gauze around his hand, he lowered his head slowly, like a man ready for the gallows door to fall.

“God … let it be better. Let it be better.” He removed the last strip.

Moss had consumed his flesh, spreading like the wild growth that it was. The wound was a grassy mound. The shoot sprouted lime-colored spores, like pus-filled pimples that begged to be popped. Thick veins, like those of a healthy leaf, ran across his palm and his fingers.

He stood up and brought his hand close to the light. His new flesh was cloudy but translucent. His thinning bones looked like tapering branches.

He fell back in his chair. How far did it go?

He rolled up the sleeve of his snowsuit and hiked up his shirtsleeve. All the way to the elbow. His forearm pulsed with bulbous veins.

He laid his hand on the table. He fingered the spores with his good hand. Squishy. Ripe.

Ripe for what? he wondered. He considered bursting them before they grew into something worse than he could imagine.

So he burst one.

The oily sac splayed open, spewing pus into the air. His head jerked right, his neck pierced by searing heat.

“Shit! Ohhhhhh, shit!”

He scrambled from his chair and nearly upset the table. His skin sizzled, and he rushed to the sink to douse himself with water. Bubbles of flesh rose and fell on his throat as his skin boiled. Some burst.He snatched a cloth from a drawer, ran it under the tap and slapped it against the burns. The cold eased the torture, and only then could he bear the pain. It was all he could do not to scream.

Upstairs, he stood at the bathroom mirror. He removed the cloth and found blood. When he looked up, he saw the true horror cast by the spore.

Something had invaded his flesh. His skin was raw, burned away. Shredded strips dangled limply along his neck. He picked them off, and what he saw next horrified more than the wounds themselves.

Scores of small punctures marked his throat. They ran red, but for how long they’d bleed that color he couldn’t know. If he was pissing green, he might start bleeding the same.

He leaned close to the mirror.

Things—things—were moving under his skin. Crawling.

He slipped against the wall. He stood silently, hopelessly, watching his reflection falter as the creatures worked their way through his body. It felt like a hundred insects, hundreds of legs creeping beneath his skin. His body jerked and started. His heart pounded. Cold tore through him. He pulled up his shirt over his rounded belly and watched the things ripple across him in waves. On occasion the creatures would pause and expand—breathe—and a sharp stab would accompany each breath.

They were eating him.

Harmon Wyatt closed his eye.

No one saw his tears.

About The Dark

2015 National IPBA Award Winner in Horror Fiction

2015 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner in Horror Fiction

4-time Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Selection

Pure Heart meets Pure Evil.

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy draws you into a realm of terror, a world unlike any other. With the inspired flair of Clive Barker and the pulse-pounding beat of Stephen King, The Dark will leave you breathless, reminding us all that for all we desire there is always a price, the currency in suffering and sacrifice. Brimming with insidious evil and a nerve-wracking pace that never lets up, this story will grab hold of your most primitive fears and crank them up to Warp 10—and won’t let go. 

It knows what you want.

It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent little boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark. 

“Move over Stephen King and Dean Koontz … The Dark is everything that horror fiction fans want—scary, unsettling, relentless and so creepy that you will not want to read it at night.” — Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

“I haven’t enjoyed a horror novel this much since the early days of Stephen King’s work.” — Miss Lyn, Amazon Reviewer

“You can’t read this in the dark because the author has made it too real … this is horror at some of its finest.” — Samantha Colville for Readers’ Favorite

“The Dark compares with works of King and Koontz and is tremendously difficult to put down.” — Melinda Hills for Readers’ Favorite

Get it on

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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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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Writing inspired by travel

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This week, we begin a series of posts by bestselling authors answering about being inspired by travel.

By Scott Bury

The Falls of Makahiku, sometimes called the Necktie Falls, above the Pools of ‘O’he’o, west of Hana, Maui

Wherever I go, I find inspiration for stories, or at least settings. But inspiration is not enough to create a book. From time to time, I travel to the places where I set my stories to make sure I get the details right.

Camping is a good example. Camping with my younger son inspired a mystery/thriller where his skills and personality would drive the story from the ignition point to the resolution. I wrestled with a plot, but somehow it just never made sense with the setting in the boreal forest.

Author Toby Neal (left) met with me in Maui and discussed the first draft of Torn Roots.

Then, bestselling author Toby Neal invited to join an Amazon initiative, where authors would write novellas based on the universe of her Paradise Crime novels. Suddenly, when I set the story in Hawai‘i, it just flowed easily.

Story roadblock solved

Because my main character was based on a real person, he was a geologist. Which meant he was doing geological work on Maui. And that was the first roadblock:

I knew nothing about Maui’s geology.

Research at the library and online didn’t give me the firsthand details I needed for a good novel set in such an evocative location as Maui. I had to go there.

I got lucky again. My wife and I were planning a vacation, but hadn’t settled on a destination. We were thinking about Prague. I did some quick checking, and found that flights from Montreal (closest airport that would serve both Europe and Hawai’i) to Kahalui, Maui were about the same price as flights to Prague!

So we decided on two weeks in Maui, and put off Prague for a couple of years.

Of course, accommodations in Hawai’i are much more expensive than in the Czech Republic, as are food, drink and just about everything else.

But I found wonderful details that added so much richness to the story.

A huge flower on beside a shop in Makawao, Maui.

Things like bamboo forests rising over our heads, to the majesty of the pools at O’he’o, to just how dense and lush is the rainforest on the southeast side of the island. High waterfalls and warm water. The delicacy of the plants.

The terror of the driving on the twisting, narrow Highway to Hana. The way it rains almost every day.

The unbelievable beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

The mouth of the Pools at ‘Ohe’o, which I incorporated into a scene in Torn Roots.

These are little details that I worked into the story that eventually became Torn Roots: A Hawaiian Storm.

The trip, the expense and the time were well worth the effort. They allowed me write a story that is much more real to readers.

A blaze of inspiration

Another trip that literally inspired a book again involved Toby Neal. She invite me, among others, to attend her first writers’ retreat in Russian River, California. My wife, Roxanne and I made it into another vacation.

We started with a few days in San Francisco, and then headed north. We planned to take a tour or two in Sonoma County, wine country.

It happened in September 2017. The car rental I chose had a TV in their office showing wildfires that were sweeping across Sonoma and Napa Counties, and describing how state police had closed a number of highways.

We drove toward Russian River, on the west side of Sonoma and in no immediate danger of fire. As we listened to the news on the car radio, we realized that we would not be touring any vineyards or wineries on this trip.

But as we drove, Roxanne said, “You should write a book about this. About someone here in Sonoma during the wildfires. And it should be about a woman, for a change.”

So I did. Yes, world, a man listened to his wife at least once in history. The result is my first Wine Country Mystery, Wildfire. It’s about a young single mom who moves to California, and finds a temporary job just before the wildfires force mass evacuations. When she gets back to her home, she’s pulled into a mystery.

As we drove through Sonoma County, the smoke in the air kept getting thicker. This was taken at around 5:00 p.m.

Again, it was the personal experience on the ground that helped me describe the setting, the feeling of being there, the continuous smell of smoke in the air, the ash that fell like snow, the reactions of the people around me.

Sunset from the summit of Haleakala, the south/eastern volcano of Maui. This is not in Hana, nor mentioned in Torn Roots, but I love this picture.

Inspiration looking for a story

Eventually, Roxanne and I did go to Prague. It’s a beautiful and inspiring place (and remarkably affordable, too!). I would love to write a story that deserves this wonderful, friendly, historic and mystical space. I just haven’t figured it out, yet.

Porto, Portugal is another inspiring place we visited. Its Livraria Lello, or Lello Bookstore, inspired J.K. Rowling to imagine the staircases at Hogwarts. Today, it’s far too crowded with people who just want to see it to be inspiring on the spot, but there are many other places in Portugal that spark the imagination.

The narrow pedestrian-only streets of Prague seem to ooze stories.
The Church of Mother of God before Týn in Old Town Prague.

Porto, Portugal is another inspiring place we visited. Its Livraria Lello, or Lello Bookstore, inspired J.K. Rowling to imagine the staircases at Hogwarts. Today, it’s far too crowded with people who just want to see it to be inspiring on the spot, but there are many other places in Portugal that spark the imagination.

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.
Me on the staircase (which didn’t move). The book is in Portuguese, on the history of Portuguese discoveries.

Everywhere I go inspires story ideas for me. I just wish I had time to write them all.

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