Bestselling writers love the spooky season

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Photo by Tom Roberts on Unsplash

It’s true: your favorite bestselling authors write scary scenes because they love to be scared, and they love scary things. One love they share is a love of the best holiday of the year: Hallowe’en.

Gae-Lynn Woods

Halloween conjures a fantastic memory from trick or treating when I was a kid. We lived in a little neighborhood in Irving, Texas and made the rounds on Halloween night with our plastic pumpkins and dad in tow. Most of the houses weren’t really decorated, but one house was spectacular! They had spider’s webs. Skeletons hanging in the trees. Spooky music. And a very long path from the sidewalk to the front door.

We bravely made the trip past all the creepiness and knocked. The door swung slowly open with a long creaaaak, and a ghost literally floated down the hall to the front door! Like any sane kids, we scrambled for our dad, who was bent in half, laughing. It took ages before we believed that the ghost was gone and got brave enough to follow Dad up the path to the open door and take a piece of candy from the bowl.

I’d like to say that I’m now a rational adult and understand that the sheet on a wire was a neat trick, but I can see that ghost floating down the hall and still swear it was real!

Raine Thomas

I’ve loved fall and Halloween since I was a kid!

October kicks off three months of holiday festivities…what’s not to love about that?

On top of that, both kids and adults get to dress up and play pretend, setting aside reality for a short while. I write fiction, so naturally this appeals to me. 

Aside from the candy (duh!), one last thing to love about Halloween is the “safe” thrills and chills it often invokes.

There’s something invigorating about a fun scare!

DelSheree Gladden

My family and I love Halloween! We spend most of the month watching scary movies and like to stay up late on Halloween night to watch our favorites.

I also love dressing up and making costumes, even though my kids are too old to dress up (their opinion, not mine) and my husband isn’t the biggest fan of dressing up either. Every once in a while I convince him to dress up, and if we ever finish our basement we’ll host a Halloween party down there.

I also love scary stories, in movie or book form, and enjoy learning about the mythology behind various cultural traditions surrounding the season. I’ve been collecting them for future Ghost Host books, if I ever get back to them. On my list is Dia de los Muertos and some of the Santeria traditions.

Scott Bury

Hallowe’en is my favourite yearly celebration primarily because it’s a day devoted simply to fun. No expectations, no pressure, just an opportunity for play.

Hallowe’en is also the season to indulge your favorite fantasies, to give yourself powers you cannot hope to wield at any other time of year. It’s time for love potions.

It’s also in fall, when nature puts on its most spectacular display, when you can wear your favorite sweater and leather jacket again. It’s just a sensual delight.

Putting up ghoulish decorations, hanging little ghosts and webs in the front yard, playing spooky music, handing out candy (which may or may not happen this year) — it’s all good fun. Plus, I look good in a cape.

David C. Cassidy

As a horror writer—and an all-round horror film lover—I know I’m not alone when I say that those gusty October nights around Halloween stir those deep desires for some good old-fashioned scares. Who doesn’t pop in a copy of The Shining or Halloween into the Blu-Ray player around the 31st? Just hearing the opening notes of John Carpenter’s haunting theme always gives me goosepimples and has me sleeping with the lights on.

For a lot of people, this is their favorite time of year—their favorite “holiday.” Dressing up, pulling pranks, scaring the screams out of little ones with some eerie music or some downright disturbing costumes or “blood-soaked” decorations … it’s just damn good fun.

We all fear something, and I think horror fans fear lots of things. It’s why we read horror. Why we watch it. It gives us power knowing we can face our fears with the surety we’ll come out on top—it’s just a movie, just a book. And Halloween? It’s our one day of the year where we get to turn the tables and be that thing under the bed—and have a blast doing it. It’s just damn … good … fun.

Now where the hell’s my Freddie Kruger glove?

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There’s more spook-tacular news coming from BestSelling Reads!

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If I could turn back time

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Monday musings on writing

by Raine Thomas

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

You may have noticed that we’ve had a few posts by other Bestselling Reads authors in recent weeks discussing what they’d do differently in their first book if they could do it all over again. The funny thing is, I contributed this blog topic to the group. Yet when it came time to think about my own response, I struggled.

I’m one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason and it happens at the pace it’s meant to. I also believe in the value of mistakes. They help us learn, grow, and, in many cases, thrive.

That said, there are certainly things I would do differently if I could turn back time. I have learned a lot in the nearly ten years since publishing my Daughters of Saraqael trilogy. Indeed, since I published those books when indie publishing was just hitting its stride, one could argue that the industry as a whole has changed since then.

The first thing I would do if I could go back in “publishing time” is get more prepared for engaging with fans before publishing. I had less than twenty Twitter followers when I decided to self-publish. I think I had less on Facebook. I made some unknowingly smart decisions by publishing all three books in the trilogy at once and using Becoming’s cover as my avatar. It resulted in almost immediate interest and a rapid boost in my social media following. If I had done the work to build my social media platforms before publishing, it stands to reason the books would have been exponentially more successful.

Hindsight and all that.

Another thing I would do differently is broaden my beta reader pool. My first beta readers were all people I knew well. That’s never the best idea! It’s rare for someone who cares about you to give you honest, unfiltered feedback. Don’t get me wrong, I got plenty of constructive input, but there are things I could’ve tightened up with more objective insights.

Photo by Dave Photoz on Unsplash

Marketing is something else I’d do differently if I could go back to that fateful day when I first clicked the publish button. Options for indies were more limited back then, but I didn’t so much as think about researching avenues to promote my books. I should have worked on developing relationships with book bloggers ahead of time. I should have looked into paid and free advertising. In short, I should have done more than create a website and a couple of social media accounts and pray for readers to find my books.

Would I change anything in those first three books if I could go back in time? Maybe. But I’ve developed a strong fan base of readers who love the books just as they are. So that’s a tough call. As I work on my next project, a novella in my baseball romance series called Ready for the Curve, I am drawing on all the experience I’ve gained since publishing the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy. I’m also participating in courses and trainings to enhance what I’ve learned. The crafts of writing and publishing are ever-evolving, and I’m determined to evolve with them!

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, and will soon be crossing the border again to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know Raine at her

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Maps and fantasy

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Monday musings on fantasy writing

By Scott Bury

A map is a necessary feature of any fantasy novel.

Tolkien’s map from The Hobbit

Ever since Tolkien and Lewis, and maybe before, every fantasy novel has a map at the beginning or the end of the book.

It’s not necessary, but I find a map often helps. I also think a good map would help with any historical fiction as well as some others, to show the reader the relationships between settings in any story, to give an idea of how close or far apart key locations are. 

The trouble is, with a lot of fantasy novels, the map is childish looking. Totally unsatisfying for anyone who knows the first thing about maps.

It seems that every fantasy writer thinks that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of the maps in The Hobbit, set the rules of cartography. 

But they’re not as good at drawing maps as Baynes. As a result, their maps are not detailed, nor realistic nor, more importantly, believable.

One good example is the map of the fantasy world in the bestselling Eragon by David Paolini. Obviously inspired by the maps drawn by Tolkien and Baynes, it’s particularly unsatisfying and child-like. It displays a lack of understanding how geography and geology work. 

This is not the only example. All the writers of fantasy seem to think mountains look like individual little cones, sometimes topped with a charming snowy peak. Rivers conveniently go through cities, which always have a hill for a castle with four towers in it. 

Coastlines are remarkably smooth, and borders between kingdoms are regular, rather than the tortuous, twisting and contentious messes you can see in virtually every part of the word, shaped by centuries of warfare and politics. 

Likewise, the societies were always limited and simplistic. There is a good kingdom and an evil kingdom. Their allies are also either good or bad, but less extreme. Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Turtledove and most others follow this trope. George Martin is the one author who comes close to reflecting the complexity of international relations and dynastic politics in his Song of Ice and Fire series. But even that is not as complex, nor as far-reaching as the real ancient world was.

The sophistication of ancient societies

The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, knew about China (which they variously called “Qin” or “Seres.”) Rome traded with India, and with far-off places like Abyssinia and Axum. Roman writers listed far-flung tribes in Scandinavia and what is now Russia, as well as in Africa. Their geography extended far beyond the maps of most fantasy writers. 

Maps and direction

Dissatisfaction with maps was part of the inspiration behind my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. When I began writing it, many years ago, my children were quite young and seemed to like stories about dragons. So we got a few movies and books, but somehow, they all seemed to follow a few well-worn tropes. The dragons were all friendly, or at least amenable to human direction. 

But that’s not what dragons meant to me. A little reading about the mythology involving dragons reveals them to be immensely powerful creatures, as well as very intelligent. While European stories generally depict dragons as antagonistic. Leave them alone on their giant piles of gold and jewels, or they’ll burn down your town and eat you alive, is the moral.

Asian dragons, on the other hand, are often said to have taught humans agriculture and other wisdom. They’re still not friendly, though. Certainly they are not suitable as pets.

Inspiration

All of this inspired me to do something different.

I guess it started with the map. “How can I make a map look more realistic?” I wondered. Eventually, I found the obvious solution: use a real map.

Which then led me to the next decision: set the fantasy story in a real place. And what is more fantastic than the Dark Age?

Current thinking dismisses the concept of the Dark Age of history. There are plenty of records from the time following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, the idea is highly western-European-centric and ignores the splendid civilizations that persisted through the years 476 to 800 CE: the Sassanid Persian Empire, China, Japan, powerful and sophisticated civilizations in India and Africa and the Americas. 

But it’s still a powerful, romantic idea, a great place for stories.

So that’s what led me to set a fantasy series in the Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the seventh century CE. 

And it has an awesome map, and I’ll use it in my upcoming sequel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

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To create the perfect book

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It’s been said that no artist is ever satisfied with their work. And I think that’s just as true for writers.

I know that, once they’re out there in front readers, there is always something that I wish I had done differently with every one of my books.

For my first published book-length fiction, The Bones of the Earth, there are some things that still bother me about it. Even eight years after its release.

I wish I had included more description of the environmental damage done by civilization, even in the sixth century. For example, both Rome and Constantinople had to import most of their grain from Egypt and the province of Africa; bad farming practices and heavy urbanization had rendered the land around the big cities unable to produce enough food for the urban populations.

I did address this more in the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, the imminent The Children of the Seventh Son.

I also wish I written more about griffins. I put one into Part 1 of the story. I intended it to represent celestial or sky powers, as opposed to the chthonic or earthly gods. However, by the time I got deep into parts 2 and 3, somehow I forgot. Also, there are already a lot of fantastical creatures in it.

A griffin from a medieval tapestry now in Basel, Switzerland. Source: Wikipedia.

Also, I wish I had known more about covers for commercial fiction: would have liked my name to be in larger type.

However, Bones was not my first published fiction. That was a story that looks like it’s for children, Sam, the Strawb Part. It’s about a young boy who loves strawberries so much, that he dresses as a pirate and attaches a skull-and-crossbones flag to his bicycle, then uses it to rob local mothers of strawberries.

I just wish, now, that the tone had been a little less acerbic, and the story a little more suitable for children to enjoy.

The good news

That’s the thing about publishing today: you can change your books after they’re written. Re-publishing an e-book means that even the people who bought or downloaded it before the change will get the new version.

And the paperbacks are print-on-demand. There are no great stacks of books in a warehouse somewhere, so producing new versions will not require wasting the original editions.

Dr. Malcolm’s question

Then there’s the question that Jeff Goldblum’s character asked in Jurassic Park: I can go back and change books and stories that are already in readers’ hands—but should I? Will those people have a different reaction? Will a slight improvement bring more readers to the book?

My first job after university was as a book editor for one of the major publishers. On my first day, I asked my boss, the chief editor, if the goal was to produce the perfect book.

He laughed.

To this day, I have not come across a single book that did not have something wrong with it. Some error, at least a typo.

I know that every time I go through a manuscript I have already edited and re-written, I find something to change. A typo that I missed, a reversed quotation mark, an awkward phrase.

If I make a lot of changes and what I think are improvements, will I just find yet more problems or errors? Worse, will I create more problems?

What if what I think as such a huge, glaring problem is something that readers barely notice?

So should I revise old books, or move on and write new and better ones?

What do you think? Leave an answer in the Comments, below.

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 several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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An author withdraws

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Bestselling member M.L. Doyle explains what of today’s circumstances have convinced her to put down her pen.

I will not be writing fiction or much of anything else for the foreseeable future. 

I know withdrawing from writing fiction at this time won’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things. My readers haven’t read anything new from me for almost a year already. The last time I posted to this blog was in April. There are millions of fantastic books and short stories out there to keep everyone entertained forever. I have no illusions that anything new I might produce would be missed. 

I’m not boycotting the writing world as some kind of call to action, nor do I think declaring an end to my fiction writing will result in some kind of change that will impact how people think. Between the pandemic and the arguments over masks, the lives lost and the massive economic hardships millions are facing, my imaginary characters, their lives, their issues …  well, who gives a shit? Certainly not me. 

Every single day I’ve felt guilt and insecurities because I can’t do more than stare at the empty page. I wish I could fill it with my fear, frustration and the extreme anxiety that washes over me every time I consider what will happen to my country, to the world, if the same thing happens in November 2020 that happened in November 2016. If the politics aren’t enough, watching George Floyd die and the callous indifference on Chauvin’s face broke me. I didn’t think I could take one more story of police brutality and the wrongful deaths of innocents at the hands of people who simply didn’t care. Then there was Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain and Venessa Guillen, a sister in arms whose murder inexcusably went unsolved for so long even when the killer was the most obvious person imaginable. If her murder had been a novel, readers would have excoriated the author for making the solution to the puzzle so damn obvious.

Why is it so hard for Americans to wear a damn mask? How could parents support a president who demands they send their children into virus riddled infection chambers? How do we allow news organizations to spread propaganda against Black Lives Matter as if this civil rights group is some sort of terrorist organization? How is it okay for the party of POTUS to put a mentally ill rapper on the ballot in a scheme to draw votes from his opponent? How do we allow our neighbors or, more importantly, our employees to scream the N word and call the police on people simply for walking down the street? How does anyone make excuses for people who stand on their front lawn and point weapons at people exercising their first amendment rights? Did that cop really think it made things better to help a 16 year-old girl sit up, after he made her and her sisters lay face down on the ground and put handcuffs on them? And even after people from around the world have expressed their anger, shock and horror over our handling of this pandemic, and indeed, ban Americans from visiting most countries around the world because of it, how can the architect of this disaster claim we are the envy of the world? Worse, how can his followers think this is all okay? 

The horrific destruction left in the wake of the explosion in that Beirut warehouse seems almost representative of the collective pressure we are all facing. I’ve had enough. 

Every single day my frustration and feelings of helplessness have grown in the face of all of this madness.  At the same time my guilt over not being able to put words on a page multiplied exponentially. The horrific destruction left in the wake of the explosion in that Beirut warehouse seems almost representative of the collective pressure we are all facing. I’ve had enough.

I wish I could control the fear so many millions feel over their need for that extra $600 congress can’t come to an agreement on. I wish I could control the guilt some cops may be wrestling with as they start to understand the realities of the systematic racism they have unknowingly supported. I wish I could control the risk to health so many teachers will face. I wish I could control the gut-wrenching feelings low income, hardworking parents must be facing who know their children won’t get the homeschooling they need. I wish I could have control over how much further behind those low income kids will become. I wish I could control the hatred in the hearts of so many who become incensed, outraged and violent over a simple demand that no lives matter until Black, Brown and Native lives matter.     

I know that many people share my frustration and feelings of helplessness in the face of all of this. By saying I’m not going to write anymore, I’m finally taking control of the one stone of guilt I can lift off my shoulders. Unlike COVID or federal troops on the streets or those who refuse to wear masks or the lunatic in the White House and all of the evil monsters who support him, this one thing, the guilt I feel over my inability to write, I can control. So I will.

M.L. Doyle

has served in the U.S. Army at home and abroad for more than two decades as both a soldier and civilian.

Mary is the author of The Desert Goddess series, an urban fantasy romp consisting of The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade. She has also penned The Master Sergeant Harper mystery series which has earned numerous awards including an IPPY, a Lyra Award and the Carrie McCray Literary Award.

Mary is the co-author of two memoirs: A Promise Fulfilled: the story of a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer (January 2011) and the memoir, I’m Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen—My Journey Home (Touchstone, 2010), which was nominated for an NAACP Image award.

Mary’s work has been published by The Goodman Project, The War Horse, The WWrite Blog and The Wrath-Bearing Tree, an online magazine for which she serves as a fiction editor.

A Minneapolis, Minnesota native, Mary current lives in Baltimore. You can reach her at her website at mldoyleauthor.com.

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New books in your hands

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We know you love to read good books. That’s why we’re all tap-tap-tapping away on our keyboards to bring you books you love to read.

Here is what you can expect from some of our bestselling members over the next couple of months.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

After publishing the long-awaited The Quisling Factor in July to critical acclaim and audience success, Janet Oakley is now working on a sequel to The Tree Solider.

Like its predecessor, it will be set in the same area of Washington, in the North Cascades and the national forest during World War II.

There is also an audiobook in the works for The Jøssing Affair.

Visit her Bestselling Reads author page.

Alan McDermott

The bestselling thriller author is currently working on his 13th novel— hopefully a lucky one!. It’s his first venture into the world of the FBI: Special agent Corrina Stone is being taunted by a serial killer who is determined to kill fifteen people.

“I’m writing the last couple of chapters at the moment, and then it will be off to my wonderful editor in the hope that he can turn it into something readable! If all goes well, I hope to see it released in late October/early November—unless it appeals to my agent, in which case it will be some time in 2021.”

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

Seb Kirby

The master of psychological suspense has two new books in the works: a sci-fi crime thriller themed around the challenges of artificial intelligence, and a legal thriller looking at innocence and guilt.

Seb hopes to publish both before the end of the year, but warns it may take a little longer as he looks for the optimal launchpad.

Visit his Bestselling Reads author page.

Raine Thomas  

There is a lot on the horizon for the bestselling author of young adult, new adult, contemporary fantasy, rock’n’roll romance and baseball romance. Having just finished the release blitz for For the Win and launching a new website, Raine is now in the process of outlining and completing character sketches for a new six-volume hockey romance series.

Not content with one huge new project, Raine is also working on a new Estilorian short story, as well as starting the outlines for a new dystopian murder mystery series she has had on the back burner for a few years.

Keep watching this space for more news on Raine Thomas’ next publishing adventure.

Visit her Bestselling Reads author page.

D.G. Torrens

This prolific and wide-ranging has three new books coming before the end of 2020: poetry books, Chasing Fireflies, due in a matter of weeks, and Sonder, coming out at the end of September. A stand alone, psychological thriller-romance novel, with the working title Blindsided, is planned for December.

Visit her Bestselling Reads author page.

Scott Bury

Three-and-a-half years after beginning the outline, Scott will bring out his second Dark Age historical fantasy in September: The Children of the Seventh Son is the sequel to the acclaimed and bestselling The Bones of the Earth.

Probably within a month after that, Scott will release the third Hawaiian Storm mystery, the rewritten Dead Man Lying.

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

DelSheree Gladden

This highly prolific writer has published fantasy, romance, mystery, thriller and books that defy categorization is now finishing Memory’s Edge 2. She then plans to wrap up her other incomplete series over the next six months.

Visit her Bestselling Reads author page.

David C. Cassidy

The master of modern horror has two new novels written and ready to go: Gateway and 1944. But because he loves to keep us in suspense, he is not telling us when he will spring them on us.

David has just completed The Pond, book 2 of the Dark Shapes, Dark Shadows series. After a brief rest, he is going to start working on the next book in the series.

Visit his BestSelling Reads author page.

All your favorite Bestselling authors are hard at work on new stories and books you’ll love. Keep coming back so you don’t miss a word.

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