Getting inspired in uninspiring times

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Monday musings by the bestselling

by Raine Thomas

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

The world is changing moment by moment, but if you’re like me and still homebound due to COVID-19, you might feel like every day is the same. I’ve begun to understand with far too much clarity why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day slowly lost his mind. This repetitive lifestyle can be stifling!

For a writer, inspiration is critical. It’s what helps us sit in front of our computers for hours on end writing stories and developing characters. When those creative juices aren’t flowing, the work comes to a grinding halt. So how does one find inspiration in the uninspiring?

The great news is that most of us have access to inspiration everywhere, even within the confines of our homes. We can find it within the pages of books and magazines, while listening to the lyrics of the latest hits on the radio, by engaging in conversations with our family members and friends, and scrolling through social media. We can even open our windows and look outside for a change—unless, like me, you live in Florida where it rains nearly every day between May and November.

I, of course, have to mention movies and television as sources of inspiration. I’ve been researching sports and athletes for future story ideas, but with all professional sports currently on a COVID hiatus, I’ve had to get creative to find the inspiration I need. Hello, YouTube! Amidst my family’s constant eye-rolling, I’ve watched hours of sports highlights and fails over the past couple months.

Sometimes, we can even find inspiration within ourselves. My upcoming release, For the Win, is a baseball romance. I started the basic outline of the book years ago. Even the book cover has been done for a couple years, just waiting for inspiration to strike. My other writing projects ended up taking precedence, however.

Until COVID hit.

It seems having my hours cut in my full-time event planning job finally gave me the kickstart to write this story. It was like the characters woke up from a deep sleep and all started talking to me at once. I finished the first draft in five weeks, and with all humility aside, it’s already become one of my favorite books I’ve ever written. The beta feedback has been incredible! It makes me wonder why it took so long for that inspiration to strike.

My advice? If you’re struggling to find inspiration through some of the ways I mentioned above, dig through your archives. You’re bound to have first drafts of projects you started and never finished. Dust them off, give them a review, and see if one of them finally speak to you. You might have a future hit on your hands!

These times are unpredictable, my friends. Let’s use that to our advantage. Find inspiration wherever you can and use it to make some magic in this crazy world of ours!

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know Raine on her

And follow her on Twitter @Raine_Thomas.

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When a book idea strikes

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Monday musings on new ideas for books

By M.L. Doyle

It never fails. I usually get hit with the good idea stick when I’m at my desk … at my day job.

Like most indie authors, I don’t make millions writing books (don’t I wish), so I have to earn a living doing something not as fun or as cool or as fulfilling as writing books. Ah well.

That said, it’s at the job where I actually earn a living that I get ideas for the job that isn’t responsible for putting food on the table. I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing my real employer wouldn’t be too happy with me dashing off a chapter or two while I’m supposed to be doing what I get paid to do.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Between having the first two books in my Desert Goddess series made into audio books, I’m sketching out ideas for book three. I’d been rolling a bunch of ideas around but hadn’t really landed on anything that was worthy of a jumping-off point. Until, off course, I got to work.

It felt as if, as soon as I booted up my computer, opened Outlook and started scanning through the piles of emails that would govern my day, that Hester, Gilgamesh, Sarah, Reuben, Quincy, Rashid and everyone else in my made-up world, demanded my attention. The opening scene unfolded. The emotion and atmosphere made themselves real. I could hear Hester in my head and the new character that will make his debut in this book, finally became a solid, fleshed-out human. For the first time, I could see his thoughts, could feel his fatigue, his hunger and confusion. He finally took shape and I knew exactly how I would make him work.

I grabbed a post-it pad, scribbled a quick tease of the ideas, and stuck them in a notebook. Throughout the morning, between meetings, phone calls, discussions with colleagues, I kept scribbling ideas and setting them aside for later. By the end of the day, I had a decent stack.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

At home, I spent some time sticking the post-its to the wall, moved them around, tried to build a bit of a timeline. There is still a lot of work to do plot-wise, but I’m finding the sticky note method works for me.

Once I sat down to write, I flew through the words that tied all of those ideas together. Chapters one and two were done in a flash.

Writing and my day job, for obvious reasons, have to be separate, but I’ve yet to figure out how to tell my brain to stop firing when I get to the office. I’m not even going to try.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.co

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S’nogged: A Jenna Ray Christmas story

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A seasonal Thursday teaser

By Kayla Dawn Thomas

The house buzzed with energy and alcohol. Around nine-thirty a loud, “HO! HO! HO!” came from the foyer followed by the slamming of the front door. Silence followed until a man in a Santa Suit entered the living room where most of us had settled. Cheers erupted at the sight of him. This was a new addition to the party lineup.

“Has everyone been good this year?” Santa shouted over the crowd.

A chorus of catcalls and whoops filled the room, and Santa threw his head back and laughed jiggling his padded belly. Mack pressed a mug of eggnog into Santa’s hand, and with that, Jolly Old Saint Nick became part of the party. The red suit mingled its way through the living room, somehow keeping its back to me. The voice seemed familiar, but I’d had just enough champagne to doubt myself. No matter how I moved, I couldn’t get a good look at the eyes above the beard.

Finally, I made my way over to Kennedy. “Who’s Santa?”

“Oh, it’s one of the new guys from Mack’s office. He’s a total clown,” she replied with a dismissive flick of her wrist. Then she clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “It’s time for the white elephant gift exchange!”

Another round of cheers went up, and everyone refreshed their drinks before heading to the corner where a giant Christmas tree covered in delicate designer ornaments held court.

“Hey, Santa, why don’t you pass out the gifts?” Mack said.

“My pleasure, ho, ho, ho!” Santa’s voice had a mock depth to it. Sandwiched between my mother and sister on the floor, I wiggled around trying to get a good look at his face, but he turned around and presented me with a red, polyester-clad ass. Stretched taut, the pants revealed well-shaped, firm buns. This Santa was no fatty.

“Mmm…Santa’s been working out,” Nora murmured in my ear.

The sound of her voice pissed me off. We’d never been the type of sisters to giggle and share secrets and ogle boys together. I was happy her life was on an upswing but was struggling with it colliding into the one I’d built. It should have been Kennedy whispering in my ear.

A small box plopped into my lap wrapped in red paper with elves frolicking on it. I tore my attention away from my sister to watch as gifts were unwrapped, and the thievery began. The Dean white elephant gift exchange had a long tradition of randomness. There were usually a couple of really nice items, lots of cheesy things, and the occasional suggestive oddball. I was pleased when Nora unwrapped an ugly teddy bear candleholder.

“That’ll look great in your new living room,” I said loud enough for the whole group to hear bringing a roll of laughter.

Nora flashed a fake smile and cradled the ceramic bears in her hands. “Hey, Mom, you know you want it.”

“Like hell I do, unless Jenna opens something amazing, I’m going for that bottle of Jameson. That guy doesn’t look old enough to appreciate it.” One of Mack’s baby faced techs flushed and pretended to hide the whiskey under his shirt.

“All right, Jenna, you’re up,” Kennedy called from the couch where she’d stretched her legs across Mack’s lap.

Feeling adventurous, I decided to go with the package in my lap. Dropping the paper to the side, I revealed a glossy black box with a model wearing dark purple edible panties on the front. Grape flavored. Laughter bubbled up from deep within me, the silent kind that just makes you shake. Really? Two years in a row I get the naughty gift.

“What did you get?” Someone hollered from across the room. “Hold it up so everyone can see!”

Before I could react, Nora squealed and snatched the box, holding it triumphantly over her head. “Who’s hungry?”

“Oooo,” Mom said in my ear. “I had a pair of those recently. Strawberry. Tasted like a stale fruit roll-up.”

I snorted as a fresh wave of laughter tore through me. This was just surreal. Then I peed a little. Startled, I yipped and jumped to my feet making a mad dash for the bathroom. The living room buzzed with laughter and dirty jokes in my wake, but I didn’t care, I was about to completely wet myself.

Someone caught my arm as I passed through the doorway leading from the living room to the hallway. Startled, I whirled around and found myself nose to nose with Santa. A pair of familiar, electric blue eyes pierced me with an intense stare from above the white beard. My heart jumped into my throat, and I couldn’t swallow it.

The Collection

S’Nogged is Story 3 in the Jenna Ray series, available in The Collection.

Think twice before you slip off that ring, boys.

Arriving at her parents’ house for an impromptu visit, Jenna Ray gets her own surprise when she finds her father lip locked with a strange woman. Then, her brother-in-law defiles her sister’s car with a waitress in a parking lot. Jenna Ray snaps the night she discovers her mentor with his receptionist wrapped around his waist and proceeds to dump the guy in nothing but his boxers at his wife’s feet. Discovering her hidden talent to seduce, Jenna walks away from her IT career and reinvents herself as a vigilante seeking justice for women who are too tired and hurt to stand up for themselves.

A side effect of the job is losing her ability to trust any man. So, when she finds herself getting lost in Thad Benson’s hypnotic blue eyes, Jenna fights the attraction with all she’s got. But Thad’s a patient man, who’s up to the challenge of taming Jenna.

With a cast of quirky friends, clients, and family, the Jenna Ray Stories will have you laughing and cringing at Jenna’s predicaments.

Get it on Amazon.

You can also get the full S’Nogged story for free by subscribing to the BestSelling Reads email newsletter. Just fill out the form above right.

Kayla Dawn Thomas

has been telling stories since she could talk, telling her wild tales to a jump rope until she learned to read and write. Her mother was relieved when she made the transition to paper.

Today Kayla writes contemporary romance, weaving her experiences growing up on a cattle ranch into her work as well as whatever is striking her funny bone or curiosity at the moment. When Kayla isn’t writing she enjoys swimming, reading, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Learn more about Kayla and her books at her

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Momentous Monday: Two brand-new titles from BestSelling Reads

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That’s right! There are two new titles available right now from two of your favorite BestSelling Reads authors. Don’t wait—these would make perfect gifts for the avid readers on your list.

Wicked Truth: Cursed Coven 

by Corinne O’Flynn 

When Ivy Winter meets Anton Stavros, “star-crossed lovers” seems like child’s play.

I used to be fine with the idea of an arranged marriage. As a “Winter Witch”, it’s important to marry well and preserve the family’s magical line. But that all goes out the window when my cat, Mr. Burroughs, decides a random dude in the park is the catnip he’s always dreamed of. Anton Stavros is the only person Mr. Burroughs has ever liked besides me, and seeing them together ignites unexpected fire inside my body. He’s tall, dark, wickedly handsome, and absolutely off-limits to someone like me.

So why do I keep saying yes to him?

After dodging my would-be suitor, it feels like a sign when Anton is waiting for me at my door. The ‘yes’ comes easy and I find myself falling into his dreamy eyes and muscled arms. But morning brings reality like a wrecking ball, decimating any fantasy I had of me and Anton. Between my family and my legacy, there’s no hope for us.

When a dark curse makes me realize what I want is more important than what’s expected, I have to make a choice. Do I defy my family for a man I barely know? Or do I follow the path laid out for me from birth? Is it already too late?

Get it from Amazon.

What Had To Be Done

By DelSheree Gladden

Everyone has bad days. Anna Elizondo is going on three years of bad days.

It started with her mother’s illness and eventual death, continued with a decision that ruined a friendship, and culminated in her father announcing they were broke and moving away right before her senior year of high school.

Maybe a fresh start will turn things around.

Or maybe it will put her face to face with her former best friend Felix and the hatred in he still carries for her.

The only bright spot in Anna’s move to Santa Fe is meeting her new swim coach, a long-time hero who has big plans for her athletic career. The pool is her refuge, but she can’t hide there forever. Living in a small town makes it impossible to stay out of Felix’s way, and unlikely their history will remain just between them for long. If Anna can’t find a way to make things at least tolerable with Felix, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Read more on the author’s website.

Get it from Amazon.

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Monday musings: The bookstore as tourist attraction

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By Scott Bury

In days of yore, I used to love hanging around in bookstores. Whether they sold new or used books, I could while away hours ambling down the aisles, perusing the obscure titles, poring over the pages, admiring cover typography and wondering about the authors. Sadly, it’s a pastime I haven’t enjoyed for a very long time.

Until last September, when I visited Portugal with my lovely wife. From the time we started planning the trip, one of the must-see spots was the Lello & Irmão bookstore in Porto. This is the bookstore that’s famous as the place that inspired J.K. Rowling’s setting of Hogwarts for her Harry Potter series.

The evocative double curving staircase is not the only reason it’s an inspiring bookstore. The inlay ceiling, the baroque woodwork, the antique lanterns—and the incredible range of books! There are books in many languages, bestselling books, books of great age and prestige, beautiful editions and even comic books.

But what is the most immediately striking thing about this bookstore is the crowd inside. Because of the Harry Potter-inspired fame, hordes of tourists cram into it daily. Lello & Irmão bookstore actually charge admission and limits the number of people they let inside at once. If you buy a book, they’ll refund the price of admittance.

Lello & Irmão was not the only bookstore I visited on that trip. Roxanne and I also popped into Livraria Bertrand in the Chiado section of Lisbon, known as the world’s oldest still-operating bookstore. It was first opened in 1732 by Pedro Faure, who took on the Bertrand brothers as partners some time later. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed the bookstore and the Betrands moved to a different part of the city. In 1773, the Bertrands returned to the rebuilt Chiado section of Lisbon, its current location on Rua Garret.

Bertrand today is a chain of 53 bookstores across Portugal, and is owned by the Porto Editora publishing company. a

Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, the oldest still-operating bookstore in the world. Photo: Wikipedia

I rediscovered the joy of spending time in a bookstore in Portugal. And on coming back to North America, I understood one reason that I don’t enjoy that activity as much at home anymore. It’s because bookstores here aren’t much in the way of bookstores anymore.

Every time I enter one in Canada or the U.S., there seems to be more space turned over to knick-knacks, coffee and food at the expense of books.

I have no problem with coffee in a bookstore. Books and coffee are a natural combination. But seeing more space for things that are far less important than books taking away space for them—that’s disheartening.

What about you? What are your favorite book places in the world?

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Monday musings: Amazon cancels the Kindle World program

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Kindle Worlds cancelled Many readers have heard that Amazon has canceled the Kindle Worlds program. Since May, Amazon has not been accepting new Kindle World titles, and all the books in all Kindle Worlds will no longer be available for sale after July 15. And then, all rights revert back to the authors of the books—except for some.

Wait—what’s a Kindle World again?

Kindle Worlds are—or were—managed, policed fan fiction. Amazon selected successful series where readers wanted more titles than the author could write in a timely way. The program allowed other authors to write short works based on the situations, settings and characters of those bestselling series. For instance, I wrote four books based on the characters and setting of Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series.

This program benefitted everyone involved. Readers got more stories in the series they loved. The original authors of those series got more connections to their audiences, and a shared of the sales of the new books. And the authors who wrote in other writers’ series got exposure to new audiences, as well as established audiences for the books they wrote in the Kindle Worlds.

It was a win-win-win-win situation. The fourth win is for Amazon, which got 15% of every sale.

Goodbye, new audiences

Half Moon Girls: A Lei Crime Kindle World novellaThis affects a number of BestSelling Reads authors. Both Toby Neal and former member Emily Kimelman have prominent Kindle Worlds based on their bestselling series, Lei Crime and Sydney Rye respectively. And several members have published Kindle Worlds titles:

  • Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman themselves both published books in each other’s Kindle World. Toby published Rough Road, bringing her Lei Texeira into Emily’s Sydney Rye world, and Emily published Warrior Dog about Toby’s Keiki the Rottweiler. Toby also wrote a book in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World.
  • DelSheree Gladden wrote The Catalyst, bringing her Eliza Carlisle from The Instigator into the Sydney Rye Kindle World
  • J.L. Oakley has published four books in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Saddle Road, Coconut Island, Volcano House and Hilina Pali.
  • Corinne O’Flynn wrote a trilogy in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Half Moon Girls, Tell the Truth and Pay the Price.
  • Caleb Pirtle III puVolcano House: A Lei Crime Kindle World novellablished Lovely Night to Die in the Special Forces: Operation Alpha Kindle World.
  • Scott Bury published in three Kindle World he was invited to: Jet: Stealth in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World; The Wife Line and The Three-Way in the Sydney Rye Kindle World; and four books in the Lei Crime Kindle World: Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying and Echoes.

But wait! There’s more!

With the cancellation of the Kindle Worlds program, the rights for all the content of the books revert back to the authors of the individual titles. But there’s a complication. The works in the Kindle Worlds were based on the books published by bestselling authors. Which means the rights to their characters, situations, stories, and other elements revert to them.Lovely Night to Die: : A Special Forces: Operation Alpha Kindle World novella

This causes some issues between the original authors and those who wrote Kindle World novellas. While the authors of the individual Kindle World books now have the rights to what they created, the original authors of the series at the core of the Kindle Worlds retain the rights to their characters and other elements.

Which raises a conflict: where exactly is the line between the respective authors’ rights in a (former) Kindle Word novella?

Why they dunnit

The concept of Kindle Worlds appeared to be a sure thing. Take existing, successful series and release new books for proven audiences. Minimal risk, more sales.

So apparently the sales were not good enough to sustain the program. The complications around copyright were probably also discouraging. Maybe that’s why Amazon never let Kindle World books be purchased beyond its U.S.-based .com site. And never allowed any formats other than .mobi-format for Kindles.

Dead Man Lying: A Lei Crime Kindle World novellaThat’s right: no paperbacks, no audiobooks. Readers in Canada, the U.K. or anywhere outside the U.S.—or, more precisely, anyone who had an Amazon account that did not end in .com—could not buy any of my Kindle World books.

The literary world evolves

With the cancellation of the Kindle Worlds, some authors actually have new opportunities. Those who republish their books, meeting the requirements of copyright, can bring these words to global audiences in any format they wish. For many, it’s an opportunity to open up new worlds to new audiences.

What it means overall is that the world of the written word continues to evolve. And for readers, that’s all good.

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