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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Thursday teaser: Confessions from the Road

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This week’s travel teaser comes from the collection of stories gathered 

By Caleb Pirtle III

The Hope Prophecy

HE CAME TO the ancient land of his people because of the saucers in the sky. Dan Katchongva had always known this day would come.

He didn’t know where.

He didn’t know when.

Now he knew.

Dan Katchongva was a Hopi chieftain, and he had heard the stories handed down, sometimes in whispers, for centuries, and he had never doubted them.

Home was not the earth.

Life was temporary.

He would someday live among the stars.

He didn’t know where.

He didn’t know when.

Now he knew.

He told the newspaper in Prescott, Arizona: “Our people believe other planets are inhabited and that our prayers are heard there. We, the faithful Hopi, have seen the ships and know they are true.”

The Hopi has long had a connection with sky.

The Hopi has long been touched by the people who live among the stars.

They watch the skies.

And they wait.

“It is coming,” the chief said.

“What is coming?”

“The Day of Purification.”

He is stoic.

His face is solemn.

“The prophecies tell us,” he says, “that nature will speak with a mighty breath of wind. It will be the final decisive battle between good and evil. The oceans will join hands and meet the sky. It is the day when all wicked people and wrong-doers will be punished or destroyed.”

He pauses.

He gazes into a calm blue sky.

The sky is calling him, he says.

It’s been calling for a long time.

“The Hopi believes,” he continued, “that those who survive Purification Day will travel to other planets.”

The saucers will come for them.

He will be ready.

He waits no longer.

The saucers have come again.

The True White Brothers, he said, are coming to take the faithful away.

Have they come for him?

Some listen to Chief Dan Katchongva.

Others scorn him.

Mostly, his words fall on deaf ears.

He walks out of Prescott early one morning.

He heads across sacred lands.

He moves toward sacred mountains.

It is the tall country where the saucers are seen.

His head is held high.

His steps are strong.

The chief does not hesitate.

He walks all day and into the night.

He is one with the darkness.

And Prescott waits for him to return.

Prescott is still waiting.

No one ever saw Dan Katchongva again.

He left no footprints upon the earth.

Confessions from the Road

I grew up in a world occupied by storytellers. Their stories were better than books. Their stories became books. After all, life is just one story piled on top of another with page numbers.

In those days, storytellers did not know they were telling stories. They were simply carrying on a conversation. I never outgrew their stories. Nor did I ever stop listening to conversations that hopscotched their way along the side of a wayward road.

The voices stay with me. So do the stories they told me.

The voices may come from down the road apiece, at the counter of a diner, on the bar stool in a beer joint, sitting in the front yard of a mountain cabin, along a stretch of spun-sugar sand, back in the darkness of a pine thicket, amidst the downtown traffic jam of a city at sundown, or from the faint memories of a distant past.

Everyone who crosses my path has a story to tell. It may be personal. It may be something that happened last week or the year before. It may have been handed down for more than a single generation. It may even be true, but who knows anymore?

For decades I’ve collected the stories I hear and can’t forget those whose names are often long forgotten. But at one time in my life, they came my way, and I wrote down their confessions from the road.

Did you like this travel teaser? Find the book on 

Caleb Pirtle IIIBestselling author Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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New book release: Finding You

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By D.G. Torrens

The new romantic suspense novel by bestselling author Dawn Torrens launches today.

Eden Marshall catches the eye of the wealthy and mysterious bachelor, Noah Ainsworth. Noah has been hiding away in his ivory tower for far too long. He decides it’s time to start living again. Eden Marshall is his motivation – captivated by her, he begins to trust in love again. Until a dark secret from his past threatens all that he loves…

About the author

D.G Torrens is a mother/writer/blogger who has a dream to inspire as many people as possible through her story. To show those with little hope that dreams can come true.

Born in England, passionate about writing, D.G. Torrens is married with a daughter. Her first book, Amelia’s Story, has inspired people all over the world. Amelia’s Destiny, book #2 is the sequel and is followed by Amelia The Mother book #3 in this awe-inspiring trilogy. A memoir that remains with D.G.’s readers long after they have put the book down …

D.G is a prolific writer and in 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Visit her:

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Monday musings: When war mimics your writing

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military romance of Afghan War veterans

Rehabilitation: More than 1,600 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq have lost limbs in service. Source: Daily Mail

Over 453 soldiers were killed in the Afghan war between 2009 and 2015. Of those that survived, there were many soldiers wounded. For some, life with missing limbs was their new reality. Their war had not ended. Struggling with day to day life back on civilian streets and minus a limb or two proved the hardest challenge for many soldiers.

Soldiers returned home to face a new battle: PTSD. Many relationships buckled under the stress of this emotional battle. Losing a leg or an arm changed the soldier’s life. The army was all they knew. Many descended into an abyss of depression. The families back home trying their best to pick up the pieces were struggling, too.

During the Afghan war, I wrote a novel called Broken Wings. It is a military romance about a soldier who is deployed to Afghanistan. His armoured truck is blown up by an IED on route 601, the key access route that connects Lashkar in Helmand with the city of Kandahar to the east. Insurgents had planted IEDS in the ditches along the route.

Joshua, was in an armoured truck on route 601 scanning for IEDs and detonating the explosives to make the route safe. His team was ambushed by insurgents and Joshua’s truck was blown up. He lost a leg and was returned to a military hospital in the Midlands, in the U.K.

The weeks that followed were a struggle for Joshua. He refused to see his girlfriend, convinced she would be better off without him. He denied her visits to the hospital. However, Angelina was insistent and eventually snuck into the hospital and found her way to Joshua. Her love for him was strong and his missing leg did not change the way she felt about him. Angelina helped Joshua to face his reality and accept his fate.

Since writing this novel, I have heard of several stories like this since the war in Afghanistan ended and our troops have returned home. Individual stories of triumph over adversity. Lovers who would not be pushed away and standing by their men. One or two stories were similar to my fictional novel, Broken Wings.

Here is a sample.

Broken Wings: a military romance

Angelina wanted to hold Joshua, never let him go and keep him safe. She held him tight as if her own life depended on it. “I love you so much. Please come back to me,” she whispered, choking back her tears while pressing her head deeper into his chest.

He stepped back and lifted her chin up with his finger. He took off his ring that was passed down to him by his grandfather years before and slipped it on her finger. “I promise you that when I return, I will make you my wife.” Joshua kissed her gently on the lips. He hated leaving her and he knew this was as hard for her as it was for him.

“Joshua, when you’re gone, time stands still until you return. I can’t move forward or backwards. I can’t sleep because of worrying about you. There are so many soldiers returning home in boxes. Every time I turn on the TV, there is a news item about a young soldier not making it back alive and the families left behind tormented by their grief,” she paused and drew in a deep breath.

“Last week, there were two soldiers from the West Midlands who were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan headlining the news. What if that happens to you? I know the loss you suffered on your first tour of Afghanistan and that could so easily have been you. You are my reason for existing, so you better come back to me. Do you hear me?”

Joshua studied Angelina’s beautiful almond eyes. He wrapped his muscular arms around her tight. “I love you. I promise that I will return to you and then I will be back for good. I will not be extending. It’s only six months. It will fly by. I will write to you all the time.” Angelina could not stem the tears tumbling down her cheeks. She could hardly breathe from the fear that this could be the last time she ever saw him alive. Joshua’s finger trailed over the small scar etched into her right eyebrow. He held her face in the palms of his hands and kissed her while brushing the tears from her sodden cheeks. He felt her pain. He was feeling it too. No words could take their pain away — it was something they had to endure together until his return.

Find it on Amazon.

D.G. Torrens

is a mother/writer/blogger who has a dream to inspire as many people as possible through her story. To show those with little hope that dreams can come true.

A prolific writer, her works were recognized in 2013 by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

Get to know more about Dawn at her:

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Life Imitating Fiction: I Married an Alien

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By Raine Thomas

When I found out that our group was tasked with writing posts about something we’ve experienced in our lives that imitated our books, I puzzled and puzzled over it. I’m a fiction writer, after all. I don’t generally write about things that happen in my real life or that I ever think I’ll personally experience. I write about fantasy and sci-fi worlds; in my contemporary fiction, I write about hunky baseball players and rock stars. None of which, I’m afraid to say, is my reality.

If I really stretch this blog concept, however, I can loosely relate my reality with the characters in my award-winning sci-fi romance Ascendant series. Kyr and Ty are aliens who travel great distances to be together. Similarly (although here on Earth), I married a man from another country who then became a permanent resident alien here in the U.S. And trust me, there was a lot of travel required before we ended up married and living together.

(Okay, I said it was a stretch. Work with me, people!)

I met my husband in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. We were both attending with friends and ended up staying in the same place. Rather like when Kyr sees Ty at the beginning of Return of the Ascendant, there was an immediate sense of awareness and familiarity between us when we first saw each other. I simply can’t explain it. I’ve read about moments like that one in romance novels…that instant spark between two people. To have it happen to me felt otherworldly.

So that’s the “life imitating fiction” moment that I decided to share with all of you. I’m happy to say that after that first meeting in New Orleans and a couple of years of long-distance dating, I married that “alien.” We just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary…and we couldn’t be happier!

I thought it would be a fun touch to include the scene from Return of the Ascendant where Kyr (or Kyra when she’s on Earth) first sees Ty. Enjoy!

Kyra wondered how he’d known what she was thinking. She shook her head, figuring he’d just made a lucky guess based on the circumstances.

They walked for several feet before her sanity kicked in. She tried to remove her arm from the man’s grasp, but he just held her tighter. While the action should have alarmed her, it didn’t. It sure as hell annoyed her, though.

Giving him a more careful study, she tried to place his face. What little of it she could see as he studied their surroundings seemed familiar. Had she met him at a party? Was he in one of her classes last year?

That didn’t seem likely. She’d surely have remembered someone as hot as he was.

His gaze moved sharply to hers. She found herself catching her breath as she looked into the most startling silver eyes she’d ever seen. No one could possibly have eyes that color.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

Grab your copy of Return of the Ascendant on any of these platforms:

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.

Raine is a hopeless romantic with a background in the fields of mental health and wedding planning…two areas that intersect far more than one would think. Her years working with children and young adults with emotional and behavioral challenges inspired her to create protagonists who overcome their own conflicts. 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.

Where to find her

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Tumblr  |  Instagram  |  YouTube  |  Goodreads  |Linkedin  |  Tsu

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Characters we love to hate: Bestselling authors talk about villains

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J.J. at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons.

We admit it: authors love creating villains, the characters readers love to hate. It’s a lot of fun! Over the next couple of weeks, some of your favorite bestselling author s will reveal the secrets behind the nastiest, creepiest, meanest and scariest people you’ll be lucky to find only between the covers of books.

This week, mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods and paranormal-romance-fantasy author Samreen Ahsan dish about the evil.

Which villainous character did you have most fun writing about?

Gae-Lynn Woods: The first character that popped into my mind when I heard this question was not one of my murderers or even one of the all around baddies in Forney County. It was a police officer named Hugo Petchard, and funnily enough, he’s the character people tell me they most love to hate!

Samreen Ahsan: Villains play a major role in any story, both in books and movies. If there is no villain, then we don’t see the importance of hero as well. In my books, villains are as important as main characters. I show my villains as more powerful than my main character. The hero doesn’t have to win against the villain all the time.

So far, the villainous character I enjoyed writing most is King Stefan from Once Upon A [Stolen] Time. He is a manipulative, mean and self-centered person who wants to break down his son to make a diabolical copy of himself.

How did you make him detestable?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Hugo Petchard is an absolute snot. Despite the grand name of Hugo, he’s small in stature, which bothers him mightily. Petchard is in his job because his daddy has money and the Forney County Sheriff owes Daddy for making significant campaign contributions. Deep down, Petchard suspects that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a real police officer, and that unacknowledged insecurity makes him show off in ways that inevitably lead to embarrassment for himself, his fellow officers, and occasionally the entire sheriff’s department.

Samreen Ahsan: King Stefan wants his son to be as ruthless as himself, not being able to love at all. As the [Stolen] series advances (coming soon), his character grows darker and darker, until my readers would hate him so much that they’d wish to kill him. But that’s not just the end. He will be there till the last book of [Stolen] series until everything around him is destroyed, including his son and his lover.

Why was it so much fun writing about him?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Hugo Petchard is the kind of person we’ve all worked with who thinks he’s more important / intelligent / better looking / funnier / and all around sexier than he really is. He’s that co-worker the boss tolerates despite his incompetence, that one person the boss refuses to fire. It’s a blast to put him in positions where he has the potential to succeed, but because he can’t contain his ego, he ends up falling on his face. It’s also fun to put the Forney County Sheriff in the position of having to defend Petchard’s stupidity to keep the campaign dollars flowing.

Samreen Ahsan: My villain is always more powerful than the hero in my books. They control minds, they hold more power and they have the ability to create destruction for all the main characters. I loved writing him in installments as he became more ruthless and vicious as you read further.

Which book is this villainous character in?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Petchard appears in The Devil of Light, Avengers of Blood and A Case of Sour Grapes, and you can bet he’ll worm his way into the novel I’m working on now.

Samreen Ahsan: Readers already have a glimpse of this cruel character in first book of the series, Once Upon a [Stolen] Time, and he will appear in the next volume,

Gae-Lynn Woods

Author of three mysteries featuring Forney County police detective Cass Elliott, bestselling author Gae-Lynn Woods makes her home on a ranch in East Texas, with her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey. When she’s not busy being a ranch hand or roadie, she’s working on the next Cass Elliot mystery and the next companion novel featuring Cass’ best friend, Maxine Leverman.

Get to know more about Gae-Lynn on her BestSelling Reads author page. You can also find her at Amazon, or her own website.

Samreen Ahsan

Since childhood, bestselling author Samreen has been into reading and writing—which can’t happen without imagination. Her Prayer Series, A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, have won numerous awards from critics and readers in North America and Europe. Samreen is hard at work on her new [Stolen] series from her home in Toronto, Canada.

Visit her Bestselling Reads page to get to know her better. You can also find her at Amazon, or her own website.

Next musings: BestSelling authors Toby Neal and Seb Kirby on their favorite villains.

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