Hit the Road, write a book

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Travel and writing series

Traveling puts you face to face with people and lifestyles you otherwise would never see or experience.

By M.L. Doyle

In 1996, I’d been in the Army Reserve about fifteen years when my unit was deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina for the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission. We were a small unit of public affairs journalists, broadcasters and media relations specialists and we had zero idea of what we’d be facing. It was both exciting and frightening.

Roll calls, early wake ups, long bus rides, briefings and more briefings. It was a very long road to get us from Minnesota to Bosnia, and the minute I stepped out of the Humvee at McGovern Base, a forward camp located just outside the city of Brcko, I knew I’d have to write about it all someday. More than ten years later, I finally sat down to use Bosnia as the backdrop for my first Master Sergeant Harper mystery, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

My time in uniform and working for the Army as a civilian means I’ve traveled a lot, providing plenty of fodder for fiction.

Once I started writing, it was easy to remember the people, the sounds and smells, the living conditions, the food, the controversies and rumors. There was plenty of fodder for a good military themed mystery in that war-torn place, and I used as much of it as I could.

Prior to deploying to Bosnia, my reserve unit had traveled to a lot of far-flung places. We’d gone to Thailand, where I met a team of Special Forces soldiers. A crew chief harnessed me to a spot right next to the rear door of the C130 we piled into. At fifteen thousand feet, the rear of the plane opened and I moved out to the farthest point the harness would allow so I could take pictures as the SF team rushed out the opening in a free fall HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jump.

On that same trip, I’d gone to a tiny little village where an army vet told me the story of how he’d been walking from village to village in 90 degree heat, vaccinating oxen and goats. With a smile on his face, he told me he’d had to stick his plastic-encased arm up to his shoulder into the ass of an elephant to investigate some digestive issue. “You don’t get to do that every day,” he’d said.

My work as an Army Broadcaster and my deployment to Bosnia were the backdrops for my mystery series, beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama. My reserve unit had been scheduled to go to Panama for training in February, 1990, so when we arrived, there were still bullet-pockmarked buildings and burned out cars scattered along the roads. I’ll never forget the scorch marks and signs of utter carnage. That trip was the first time I’d seen the aftermath of war. It wouldn’t be the last.

On another trip, I went to Guatemala’s Soto Cano Airbase and from there, traveled around doing stories about what soldiers were doing in the Central American country. I decided to tell the soldier’s stories by at least trying to do what they were doing, to get my hands dirty a bit. So, I ran a rock crusher, picked up and emptied a bulldozer bucket of rocks. I lay cement blocks for the foundation of a school, dosed a few cows and horses with de-worming medication and gave vaccinations to a couple of kids. One of the military dentists asked me if I wanted to pull a tooth. I said no thanks to that.

During our trip to Honduras the troops did much of the same kinds of missions, but the mountain villages were much harder to reach and the small villages felt isolated and cut off from the world. That trip was the basis of the second book in my mystery series, The Sapper’s Plot.

As a civilian working for the Army, I spent week after week in Hohenfels, Germany, a massive training area in Bavaria. The mock towns, miles and miles of dirt roads and live fire ranges were the basis of my third book, The General’s Ambition.

The Ziggurat behind me was the inspiration for the Desert Goddess series and the books The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade.

Shortly after the start of the Iraq War, I was assigned a mission to go to Baghdad from Germany on the occasion of the change of command from one general officer to another. I decided to take advantage of the assignment by flying into Kuwait and convoying from there to Baghdad as a chance to shoot video and capture stories along the way. It took two days to get from Kuwait to Baghdad. Along the way, we stopped at an ancient Mesopotamian town called Ur. The Ziggurat in Ur and the streets of Baghdad were the basis of my urban fantasy series, beginning with The Bonding Spell.

Additionally, the trip between Kuwait and Baghdad helped me greatly when I co-authored Shoshana Johnson’s memoir. The stories she told me of the ambush her unit encountered, and the days she was held as a POW, were so vivid and easy for me to describe because I had been there, walked the sand, driven the roads, spoken to the people and knew at least the basics of what she saw. Her book, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home, benefited from our shared experiences both from having been in those places and from being black women who had served in Army uniforms.

I haven’t written a book about my time in Thailand, but I’ve used bits and pieces of that trip to color other stories. And so far, I haven’t based a story in Guatemala or Panama, but I’ve taken some of what I saw in those places and woven them into other narratives. There are plenty of other countries, military bases and experiences that could be imagination-fueling fodder for a good story. I’ve barely tapped into the places I’ve visited on vacation or any of the stateside duty locations I’ve spent time in.

Without doubt, location plays a big role in how and what I write. I’ve always enjoyed learning about new places, interesting careers and unusual spots in the books I read. Where the story takes place is the backbone which leads to how the story will unfold.

For example, the third book in my Desert Goddess series will have some bits that take place in modern-day Iraq, something I’ve not done with any of the other books. The next Master Sergeant Harper mystery is probably going to take place at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I haven’t figured out the plot yet, but I know where the mystery will take place because of the different missions that take place on that installation. And a new novella series I’m working on may very well take place in the DMV – the D.C., Maryland and Virginia corridor where so many military bases and federal agencies are located. Yes, I know it’s a common place for a thriller style story, but it’s also the seat of the nation’s power and the Pentagon. Plus, I know the area and for this particular new series, it’s a perfect setting, at least for a start.

For me, location, location, location is more than just a mantra for buying property. It’s also an important character in my storytelling.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

Unafraid of genre jumping, Mary has co-authored two memoirs, a three-book mystery series, a four-novella erotic romance series, and has just published the first book in a planned urban fantasy series.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. 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.com.

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It’s science fiction and fantasy season

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Fantasy season begins for BestSelling Reads

Fantasy, science-fiction and occult horror books are some of readers’ favorite genres. The great news is that BestSelling Reads members have plenty of titles to offer you.

Here are some of the best fantasy, science fiction and horror books you’ll find, available from your favorite bestselling authors.

Samreen Ahsan

  • The Stolen series—historical fantasy
    • Once Upon a Stolen Time
    • Once Upon a Fallen Time
  • The Prayer series—romantic fantasy
    • A Silent Prayer
    • A Prayer Heeded

Frederick Lee Brooke

The Drone Wars dystopian science fiction series

  • Saving Raine
  • Inferno
  • The Drone Wars

Scott Bury

  • The Bones of the Earth—epic historical fantasy
  • Dark Clouds—urban fantasy

David C. Cassidy

  • Never Too Late —horror
  • HauGHnt—horror
  • The Dark—horror
  • Velvet Rain—science fiction
  • Fosgate’s Game—horror

M.L. Doyle

  • The Bonding Blade—urban fantasy
  • The Bonding Spell—urban fantasy

DelSheree Gladden

  • The Ghost Host series—romantic fantasy
  • The Aerling Series—urban fantasy
    • Invisible
    • Intangible
    • Invincible
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes series—urban fantasy
    • Wicked Hunger
    • Wicked Power
    • Wicked Glory
    • Wicked Revenge
  • Life & Being—paranormal romance

Seb Kirby

  • Double Bind—science fiction

Toby Neal

  • Island Fire—dystopian science fiction
  • The Scorch series—dystopian future

Corinne O’Flynn

  • Death Comes Ashore: Witch Island Mysteries Book One—paranormal suspense NEW
  • Midnight Coven Collections—paranormal romance
    • Forever Still
    • Immortal Oath
  • The Expatriates series—fantasy adventure
    • Song of the Sending
    • Promise of the Scholar
  • Ghosts of Witches Past—paranormal suspense
  • The Aumahnee Prophecy series—urban fantasy
    • Marigold’s Tale
    • Watchers of the Veil (with Lisa Manifold)
    • Defenders of the Realm (with Lisa Manifold)

Raine Thomas

  • The Ascendant series: science-fiction Romance 2014
    • Return of the Ascendant
    • Rout of the Dem-Shyr
    • Rise of the Faire-Amanti
  • The Firstborn Trilogy—young adult urban fantasy 2013
    • Defy
    • Shift
    • Elder
  • The Estilorian series
    • Deceive
    • The Prophecy (short story)
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Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

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A time-travel fantasy romance teaser

By Samreen Ahsan

“She is a witch?” I asked hesitantly.

There were magic and excitement, a hope dancing in his eyes—that I had never seen before.

“It doesn’t affect her,” he said. “For the first time, I feel like I hold the reins of my fate in my own hands.” He stood up and walked around the room once again, my gaze tracking his every move. “I feel like…” for the first time, I noticed King Stefan was out of words. He was troubled delivering his emotions. “I feel as if I am able to write my own story. No one else holds the power.” I looked at him confounded. Was he implying that she had a royal blood in her? “She is a woman who has come out of my dreams.” His dreams? What was he saying? “You spend your entire life having one dream—a woman standing in your garden—surrounded by nature…” I held my breath tightly, my heart hammering. “And one fine day… she just starts living with you,” he snickered and shook his head. “There’s a dream legacy passed from seven generations of Hue men—a woman haunting them all their lives.” I stared at him, not able to believe what I was hearing. He was talking about my dream. “She is holding our weapon but she’s standing in our garden which is full of natural gems. It seems like nature is in love with her. She’d create all the life within this castle. She is wearing a beautiful white dress with every possible flower stitched to it.” He rubbed his beard, his eyes showing his fascination. “She looks sinfully tempting but she also looks like a killer. And we are so consumed by lust that we don’t see her intention.” He looked me in the eye. “I was not supposed to share this dream yet. Hue men normally share it with their sons when they reach the deathbed, but since she’s already here—before my death—I had to share.” He moved in closer. “Tell me… did you ever have this dream?” I could sense danger lurking behind the walls of this castle.

I felt like the walls of the chamber were closing in on me. I couldn’t even imagine what he would do to her. She was not just in my dreams, but she had been haunting all Hue men in the past? Was she truly Jasmine after all? Because that was the only witch that had haunted Hues.

“It was not just the garden of our castle,” he referred to the poem, “but I call it hortus delicarium (the garden of pleasure), where she gave me hope.” I wanted to shut down my mind. “She is a rose in this garden, attracting everyone with her beautiful charms.” This was my dream, my garden, my fantasy. He made me believe that dreams do have significance in our lives just like how Guillaume de Lorris had narrated in his poem. “The rose is inhabited by Déduit (Pleasure) and his companions, Jeunesse (Youth)Richesse (Wealth), Liesse (Jubilation), and Beauté (Beauty).” He was using the exact French words to make me understand his dream. He assumed I couldn’t picture it in my head.

Bloody hell! She was not just my fantasy but my forefathers’ as well.

“You sound like a poet,” I grunted. “You were the one who used to say poetry is a waste of time.”

“Yes,” he sank deeper in his chair, “but I never knew a dream could shape reality.”

I held my breath tightly and recalled the poem to argue.

“So, you’re saying she is Idleness, who is the intimate acquaintance of Diversion,” I chuckled as I recalled Guillaume’s words, “the elegant charmer who owns the garden.” I couldn’t agree more with him that she was indeed a charmer. “She could lead you to damnation,” I added. “In your case, she doesn’t own the garden.” Or does she? I wondered if she had any relation with this castle. I hated to admit it, but my father was right—she truly didn’t have any curse affecting her inside the castle.

He watched me for a while and changed the topic. He had mixed feelings for her—he couldn’t decide if she was an angel or a devil.

Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

Samreen Ahsan continues the saga that began in Once Upon a [Stolen] Time.

In Once Upon a [Fallen] Time, the past and future collide in the tale of love, obsession, betrayal and the hope for redemption.

The tortured Edward Hue, the last king in the cursed dynasty, is in deeper anguish over the woman he loves when he discovers which woman his father has chosen for him to marry.

“The author’s style is magical in itself as she sets the past and present onto a direct collision course. 5-stars!”—Tome Tender Book Blog.

Find it on Amazon.

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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Book launch: Death Comes Ashore

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A new urban fantasy series

By Corinne O’Flynn

The deepest mysteries lie within… 

When Detective Corey Proctor became a cop, she put her ridiculous family history well behind her. Being the only female descendant of the Proctors and Coreys of Salem Witch Trials fame made her a target at an early age. But there’s no magic here, thank you very much… her kidnappers saw to that.

As she begins investigating a murder on New England’s Nahant Island, Corey’s troubled past comes roaring back like the turbulent waves that carried the victim’s body to the shore. Dark memories stirred up by the victim’s likeness threaten Corey’s ability to remain focused on the job. When a friend calls, worried that her daughter is missing, it’s one more thing to add to the ever-growing list. 

Corey’s always managed to keep her past where it belongs… in the past. But as her investigation progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that all she’s worked so hard to contain is threatening to reveal itself, ready or not.

Available now exclusively on Amazon.

Corinne O’Flynn

is a productivity geek, graphic designer, ghostwriter, and the author of an ever-growing list of fantasy and mystery novels and short stories.

Married, raising four kids, she is the founder and executive director of a non-profit organization, and a professional napper. She also serves on the board for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW).

You can check out all of her books on her website or on Amazon.

Anyone interested in staying connected can sign up for her emailsWhether you’re a fan of mystery or fantasy stories, or a fellow busy human looking for ways to build your own productivity systems, Corinne O’Flynn invites you to join her as she shares what she learns on her adventures.

“I believe in doing things with intention, and making sure those intentions are good. :)”

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Thursday teaser: Defy

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Fantasy by Raine Thomas

As his firstborn child, Tate certainly held a special place in Caleb’s heart. Her free, uninhibited spirit so resembled her mother’s that he couldn’t help but love her all the more for it. But she worried him, too. Where her twin was content to follow the rules, Tate consistently bent them.

“I had the dream again.”

He looked down at Skye. Her light blue gaze was centered on the paddock. As usual, his avowed wore her long, softly curling brown hair down, and it caught in the breeze, allowing the sunlight to reflect on its beautiful red and gold highlights. Her fitted, knee-length sundress formed a swirl of rainbow-bright hues centered right over her round belly. Their next set of twins was due in about two months. Unlike her sisters, Skye was prone to multiple births. This would be their third set of twins.

I know, he thought, taking advantage of their ability to share thoughts as an avowed couple. I had the same dream.

Tate asked you if she could go with Quincy and Sophia, didn’t she? Skye thought.

He nodded. “I told her no, of course,” he said.

“And we’ll keep an eye on her tomorrow?”

“Of course. As always.”

Such concern when expressed by other parents might have seemed overprotective, he supposed, watching Tate join Tiege’s training session. Her blessed nunchucks whirled and winked in the light as the twins sparred.

But then, most parents didn’t dream of the future.

The dream he shared with Skye had been recurring more and more regularly ever since their niece, Clara Kate, transitioned to the human plane a couple of months ago. In the dream, Tate was alone and outside the area of protection that surrounded their homeland. An unseen attacker took her off-guard, grasping her in a brutal grip and disorienting her. When she finally realized what was happening, her terror was devastating.

But it was the end of the dream that caused Caleb to wake up in a cold sweat with an agonized cry in his throat. It had his normally positive and cheerful wife looking sad and worried. And it served as the reason why they absolutely couldn’t let Tate have her way when it came to her request to venture out with Quincy and Sophia.

For they had both foreseen their firstborn daughter’s death.

About Defy

Seventeen-year-old Tate is about to make her parents’ dreams come true. Unfortunately for her, their dreams foretell her death. 

Eager to explore more of the Estilorian plane and prove her abilities, Tate goes against her parents’ wishes and leaves the area of protection surrounding her home. Her choice puts her on a deadly path…one that leaves her alone, severely injured and battling for her life. 

Her possible savior arrives in the form of Zachariah, a male who has removed himself from Estilorian society for more than fifty years. Fighting an unexpected connection to Tate, he must decide whether saving her life is worth destroying his. 

As Tate struggles to find a way home, she ends up drawn into a dark Mercesti plot involving multiple murders and a powerful ancient artifact. With the unpredictable Zachariah as her only source for aid, she’ll soon find out if her abilities are strong enough to help her defy her Fate.

Buy it on

Raine Thomas

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.

Learn more about Raine on:

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Why we write what we write

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Romance, mystery, thriller, science-fiction … what makes an author choose to write in a particular genre? Your favorite bestselling authors reveal why they chose their literary path. This week, we continue with Kayla Dawn Thomas, David C. Cassidy, Scott Bury and J.L. Oakley.

Kayla Dawn Thomas

Romance

I’ve always been fascinated with falling in love, with everyone finding their perfect someone. While I read romance from all time periods, I like writing contemporary to show that people can still find love in this somewhat jaded, prickly world.

David C. Cassidy

Horror

For me, it was simply a case of being enthralled and inspired by Stephen King and Clive Barker at a young age. For me, they taught me two things. King: How to tell a story with “real” characters a reader cares about. Barker: How to imagine … and then to imagine more.

Scott Bury

Historical fantasy, non-fiction and mystery

When I was about 15 or so, I was into science fiction. I read a novella by Larry Niven featuring a detective named Gil the Arm. He served in a global police force, a couple of centuries in the future, so it was essentially a science fiction detective story. I was hooked!

When I started writing fiction, I felt frustrated by the expectations and tropes of genres: noirs, police procedurals, fantasy, science fiction … Plus, I am interested in many different types of stories. That’s why I not only write in different genres, I cross the boundaries as often as I can.

J.L. Oakley

Historical fiction

I’ve always loved history and even wrote a very serious thesis on Comanches as prisoners of war using primary materials from the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institute. My goal was to make it readable, not some high-faluting work that people wouldn’t understand. That’s what a publican historian is all about.

Writing historical fiction is another way to present history in an engaging way. When a reader becomes involved with a character facing the troubles of her time or just living life, you can teach about an era much more effectively. 

Take your pick

Whatever genre you like, BestSelling Reads members are authors who adhere to the highest professional publishing standards, dedicated to bringing readers compelling, enjoyable stories that leave you wanting more.

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