A special family member gets into a book

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Monday musings

By Toby Neal

Memory can be a powerful source of writing inspiration…

Her eyes are milky now, this old dog of ours, and her muzzle adrift in silver. She gets up in the mornings from her bed and walks like I feel some days, stiff and sorry that dawn has stolen comfort. She has never been a dog to make assumptions, boldly thrust her nose into my hand and demand petting like my young dog Liko, with his bold stares and entitlement. No, she’s respectful, and keeps her eyes down, and merely follows me from room to room to make sure I’m safe and okay. If I’m sad she will sense it, and come close, and sit with me, and it’s powerful because I know it costs her something.

She came to us fifteen years ago when the kids were young, a tiny pup the kids discovered on Kauai while we were camping.  A hippie girl had the litter in her tent, and the pups were adorable even if the hygiene wasn’t.

We’d had a trail of failed dogs thus far: the Dalmatian that was too hyper, the beagle mix that bit, and Shepherd that knocked the kids over and tracked dirt everywhere. We’d always had to give them away with accompanying heartache and tears, so I said no. And no again the next day. And finally, as the begging reached a crescendo, yes.

Nalu, named because of wave shapes in the markings on her cheeks, was so little that we carried her home to Maui in my purse.

Nalu protecting her people on a beach walk.

She patrols the grounds every day to protect the family, even now with her limp, and the hunch in her back since she fought a pit bull who dared to come too close to our home, and was shaken like a chew toy for her courage.

Nalu has always been a very big dog, for a Chihuahua.

Nalu loves going to bed, because we give the dogs a treat, and pets too, and she can lie down with that sigh she gives at the end of the day, knowing her work guarding us and keeping us company is done.

And Nalu, passed away now, was the model for Keiki, the fiercely loving and loyal Rottweiler who’s been Sergeant Lei Teixeira’s companion in 12 USA Today award-winning books, the Paradise Crime Mysteries. She will live forever, now.

See the books at https://tobyneal.net/ and meet Keiki yourself!

And if you like true stories, you might enjoy my memoir, Freckled. It’s a whole lot of memories strung together.

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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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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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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Thursday teaser: Wildfire

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Read this mystery excerpt to find out how you could win a free e-copy of the acclaimed novel

By Scott Bury

Wildfire: Wine Country Mystery #1 by Scott Bury

Roberto and Tara returned to the group standing beside their trucks. “There’s no gas and not much to eat or places to stay here,” Roberto said. “And the old-timer at the gas station says the 101 is closed north of Santa Rosa. That explains why Alan’s not here—he got caught on the other side of the highway after it closed.”

“Then why isn’t he calling us to let us know?” Nicole demanded, panic in her voice. 

“Cell service is out,” said Greg, holding up his phone. “I have no bars.”

Nicole had her phone in her hand, and she hit the screen to try calling again. Tears cut through the ash and soot on her face as she paced, waiting for an answer. “Dammit,” she muttered when the error tone sounded. 

“Let’s find somewhere to clean up,” Toby suggested. “Maybe get some water, something to eat?”

“Alan told me he knows the owner of a hotel around here,” Roberto said. “Nicole, do you know it?” 

Nicole did not answer, just shook her head, staring at the phone in her hand. 

“The man at the gas station said there was a hotel across the river. There can’t be that many in this town,” Tara said. 

“Let’s check it out,” Roberto agreed. The two of them set off across the narrow steel bridge. Tara looked at the river flowing below. Water—that’s the key. I wonder if the river is much lower than normal. I can see a lot of rocks. Maybe it is. 

“That must be it there,” said Roberto, pointing to a brown wooden building with a big “Hotel” sign on top.

“Wasn’t that hard to find after all.”

The hotelier was a large man with a white beard and a slight German accent. Wide eyes looked at Roberto and Tara over his reading glasses. “Twenty-three? Well, sure, but you’ll have to share. We have a bunch of writers here already, but they’re pretty quiet.”

“Great,” said Roberto. “I’ll bring them. I have a business credit card—”

The hotelier held up a hand. “No charge for fire refugees.”

“Really? No, we can’t—”

“Really. I can’t take money for helping out in a disaster.”

Tara and Roberto returned to the group, who all looked unhappy and guilty. “Where’s Nicole?” Roberto demanded.

“She took off,” Rosa answered, looking down the road they had come. “She jumped in her car and went to find Alan.”

“What? Why didn’t you stop her?”

“We tried,” said Toby. “She wouldn’t listen. She kept phoning him and crying, and said she couldn’t stand waiting any longer. What could we do, tie her up?”

“Yes!” Roberto’s face was flushed, his nostrils flaring. “It’s way too dangerous to go back.” He ran toward the Ford, calling orders over his shoulder. “Go to the hotel—you’ll see it from the bridge. It’s all arranged.”

As he opened the truck door, Tara was at the passenger side. “I’m coming with you.” She opened the door and Charlie startled her by jumping in and moving to the back seat.

Roberto did not argue with either of them. 

When they had left Monte Rio behind, Tara asked, “If the highways are closed, how are you going to get back to the winery?”

“There’s more than one way there. I know a lot of backroads.”

“Does Nicole?”

“If she doesn’t, she’ll end up back at Monte Rio.”

“Does Alan know them?”

“Better than I do.”

“So he could be on his way there, now, and could miss Nicole.”

“Could be.” Roberto’s eyes remained focused on the winding road, his hands tight on the wheel.

“Do you really think he’s okay?”

Roberto did not answer.

About Wildfire

Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. She has to evacuate with the rest of of the staff of Sonoma’s most award-winning winery. When she returns, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.

The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?

Win a free copy of this acclaimed e-book, signed by the author. Leave your answer to the following question in the Comments section below.

What is the name of the winery where Tara and Roberto work?

Hint: Check the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

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 written in the Lei Crime (Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line) Kindle Worlds.

His latest work is a military memoir trilogy: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

He is a recipient of Maclean Hunter’s Top 6 Award and a member of a team that won a Neal Award for business reporting.

Scott can be found:


BestSelling Reads page  |   
Amazon Author page      |    Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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An authors group for readers

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A quick look at any social media platform will find any number of groups of authors. Groups that purport to promote writers and their books, groups that focus on particular genres or styles. 

In a few minutes, you could subscribe to dozens of services that will email you announcements of new books and links to discounted and free books in almost any genre. 

BestSelling reads stands a little apart for one reason: we’re here for readers like you.

Yes, every member of BestSelling Reads is a bestselling author. All our members have won awards for our books. 

But our purpose here is to help the avid reader find excellent books. Books that you’ll get something out of. Books you’ll enjoy reading. 

A carefully vetted group

Unlike many promotional groups for authors, not just anyone can become a member of BestSelling Reads. Before they join, prospective members are nominated, evaluated and vetted by existing members. We choose only writers who commit to meeting, or exceeding the publishing standards of the leading commercial publishers.

All members ensure our titles are professionally edited, proofread and formatted. We have qualified, professional designers for our covers. We don’t cut corners. 

What this means for you

Writers are also readers, and we hate wasting time and money on a bad book. We don’t enjoy reading a book filled with typographical errors, inconsistencies in continuity or gaping plot holes. 

And we know you don’t enjoy them, either.

Choosing from our members’ titles ensures that you’ll get a title you’ll love, one that meets the standards you expect from a professionally published book, a book that is as easy to read as it is compelling. 

Our authors produce excellent work in a broad range of genres, from action-adventure to romance, from young adult and fantasy. 

Take a look at the genres or at the Author page of any one of our members. 

Make sure you don’t miss out on any news or new release—subscribe to get the BestSelling Reads newsletter in your email with advance notice and specials for members only. You’ll also get a free e-book. This month, it’s The Catalyst by DelSheree Gladden.

And leave a comment or a question for your favorite BestSelling Reads member author. We love to hear from readers!

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