The Quisling Factor

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A bestselling Friday focus

By J.L. Oakley

As soon as Tommy was out of sight, Haugland jogged up the tree-lined driveway, slowing down where the pines opened up. From there he saw the fruit trees planted below the ruined farmhouse. Haugland cocked his head to listen to any sound, frustrated that he had to rely on the hearing just in his right ear. Nothing.

He surveyed the scene carefully. It would a while before the sun cleared the hills and fjell to the east, so the light was dim, but he could see clearly. He looked at the house and froze. The ancient door to the dairy in the stone foundation was open. He was certain it was locked when he was up here a couple of days ago.

Who was at the farmhouse? Someone pilfering it? Times were hard, but stealing from a neighbor would be a terrible infraction. He watched for any sign of movement around the door and saw none. Caution, however, told him to wait. Tommy would be getting close to the cabin by now. If Haugland didn’t show up, he’d find his way up here.

On Haugland’s right, the field ran alongside the edge of the pine and birch forest until it ran into a jumble of brambles. A narrow path led down to the cabin. He was torn about going up to the dairy or starting down. He decided to go up.

At the door, Haugland listened carefully again. Drawing his pistol, he slowly pushed the door open. It was dark in the cellar. He had come down here once with Anna—was that nineteen months ago? He was with her when she discovered the secret cave hidden in the back of the pantry. That finding had saved Kjell and Helmer while German soldiers searched the house during the razzia. But now, the chill of the cellar stirred in Haugland claustrophobic memories of the basement in Rinnan’s Cloister. Without a flashlight, he could not make out anything other than long-discarded tins and wooden boxes used for butter and cheesemaking next to him. Satisfied that no one was inside, he came out. Shaking off his unease, he turned toward the brambles. Whoever had come up here must have felt safe leaving his bicycle down on the road. Haugland hoped Tommy would approach the cabin with caution.

He listened for any movement above him, but heard nothing. He left the door open as he found it and started down.

The wind had picked up, bringing with it stinging bits of frozen moisture. By the time he reached the brambles, he felt sure they were in for sleet or hail. He took a deep breath and stepped onto the path.

The brown brambles were thick and woody, their thorns catching Haugland’s sweater as he passed through. Holding his pistol high in the air, he pulled back, then when freed, went forward.

The shortcut to the cabin began to descend down toward the pines around the back of the cabin. He stopped and listened. Somewhere ahead, a bird flitted in the underbrush, making sharp chirping sounds, but he couldn’t tell where exactly it called from. The bird continued on, then suddenly stopped. Haugland stood dead still, searching for the reason. Again nothing. My ear is playing tricks on me. He took a step out of the brambles and onto ground covered with pine cones and needles. He heard the click too late. Something cold and metallic touched the side of his head.

“Stay where you are,” a familiar voice said. “Put your hands up and drop your gun.”

Haugland carefully raised his hands. “You don’t want to do this. I’m not alone.”

He heard the man shift on his feet. The gun shook in the man’s hands. Be careful with that. Haugland surmised the man wasn’t sure how to use a firearm which made him dangerous. Haugland didn’t want to die by the pistol going off accidentally.

The Quisling Factor

Treason. Espionage. Revenge.

In the aftermath of WWII, ex-intelligence agent Tore Haugland tries to adjust to life in his newly freed country with the woman he loves. But he still has to testify against a Norwegian traitor—one of the monsters of the German occupation—whom he helped to capture.

When mysterious notes threaten Haugland and his family, he must choose between protecting them or bringing to justice the man who tortured him and destroyed the village that hid him.

Challenged by injuries and recurring nightmares, he will have to rely on his former training and old Resistance friends to rescue his wife from the traitor who will do anything to keep Haugland from testifying.

Get it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley

has established a reputation for writing outstanding historical fiction set in the mid-19th century to the Second World War.

In 2013, she received the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award and the Chanticleer Grand Prize for Tree Soldier, a novel set in the Forest Service, a Depression-era program in the Pacific Northwest. In 2017, Janet won the Goethe Grand Prize for The Jøssing Affair, the 2018 Will Rogers Silver Medallion and two WILLA Silver Awards.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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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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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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Summer time, and the reading is easy

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Monday musings

By Scott Bury

The season is here. The big parties that traditionally open the season have happened, despite all advice to the contrary. Weekend visits to the cottage or beach have turned into weeks-long vacations and road trips.

And that means that summer reading season has started, as well.

What is summer reading?

Summer reading has come to mean, for most, reading one or more of the blockbuster bestsellers, the ones heavily promoted by one of the five major commercial publishers, a new release by one of the reigning bestselling authors, or an earlier book that’s been turned into a movie.

This summer, that second category is not likely to be as big a factor, as most cinemas are closed. The closest will doubtless be something that’s been adapted for the smaller screen by a streaming service.

(Speaking of streaming services, there seems to be a new one vying for my monthly fee every week. And much of the content looks fascinating. But that’s a subject for a later post.)

For me, summer reading means trying to catch up with a large number of books I’ve bought or been given over the past twelve months.

Books to surprise and delight

The books I look forward most to reading are less well-known, by less well-known authors. Independent writers, new and emerging writers, and authors not promoted by big commercial corporations.

Often times, that means I have to turn to my friends for recommendations, or scour sites like Goodreads and, of course, BestSelling Reads, for new books to read.

So given all that, here are some of the books I look forward to reading this summer:

  • Hiding Scars, by Winnipeg writer Richard Zaric, the story of immigrants to western Canada during the First World War and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
  • What Had to Be Done by DelSheree Gladden
  • Beautiful Finale by Raine Thomas, the fourth, and final book of the House of Archer rock romance series

Okay, those last three are well-known, bestselling authors, but I like them, so …

  • The Winnipeg General Strike by Michael Dupuis, a book I bought a year ago on the centennial of the great, nation-shaping event
  • The Quisling Factor by J.L. Oakley, the follow-up to the excellent World War II drama set in Norway, The Jossing Affair, which I hope to see very soon

That should be enough for one summer.

I know what you avid readers are thinking: that’s not so many for three months! In my defence, I have also been working hard on finishing my oft-promised, and oft-delayed second Dark Age novel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

While that’s with alpha- and beta-readers and an editor, I have also been working on a new (or renewed) Hawaiian Storm mystery, Dead Man Lying.

So it’s going to be a literary summer for me.

What about you?

What are your summer reading plans? Tell us in the Comments.

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Volcano House

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A Hawaiian mystery Thursday teaser

By J.L. Oakley

Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Kilauea, Hawaii, 1889

The lava lake glowed, its light reaching up into the deep night sky like a living thing. As the volcano belched, coughed and hissed, its light created wavering red and gold images on the ‘ohi’a trees and giant hapu’u tree ferns that dared to grow so close. From the crater’s belly, a tall column of cloud rose to the stars.

Almanzo Almeida stood on the long veranda of Volcano House and watched the party of twenty guests and their guides depart for Little Beggar on Pele’s Throat a half mile away. It would be a good night to descend onto the floor of Kilauea Crater. Their candle-lit lanterns twinkled in the dark like little fairy lights in counter march to the heavens above. Some of the guests, he suspected, wouldn’t want to go all the way across to the far lake, but might stop to pull out some thin glass threads of Pele’s Hair.

Volcano House, 1877

From outside the long ranch-style hotel, Almeida could hear the late night guests chatting around the great stone fireplace inside. At this elevation, nights at Kilauea could be chilly, even cold. The fireplace was always the focal point of the establishment overseen by the superb hospitality of Colonel and Mrs. Malby. Almeida patted his stomach. The food was outstanding, too, something that always amazed visitors, including Mark Twain, who came some years back. No matter if you came up the new carriage road from Hilo or came from Punalu’u by tram and horseback, Volcano House stood out as a first class hotel next to a volcano on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere: a jewel in the Royal Hawaiian Kingdom’s crown.

Volcano House restored, now the Volcano Art Center.

Out in the dark, a horse nickered down by the stables. Almeida pulled out his chain watch. Under the soft glow of a lantern he checked the time, then looked down in the direction of the stables. Shortly, a light appeared and began to swing back and forth. So Casper DeMello was back. Almeida put on his jacket. Moments later he was heading down across open ground, his only light a candle in his lantern.

Down by the low shed that served as a waiting station for guests, a shadow emerged.  

“What did you get this time? Anything good?” Almeida asked.

“Yeah, yeah. They nevah gonna miss it. Stupid tourists.” The young Portuguese man set his lantern up on a wide stump. When Almeida added his, the area bloomed with light.

DeMello pulled a bag of gold coins, a lady’s watch and chain, a silver comb out of a satchel and set them on the stump. Other items of value were added, all of them sparkling in the candle light.

“Were you careful?” Almeida asked as he handled one of the gold chains, weighing it back and forth through his fingers.

“Course I’m careful. It’s all stuff dropped on the steamer and the tram. The rest I just nipped. I was plenty careful.”

“Hmph.” Almeida grunted. It wasn’t easy getting up to the hotel. Tourists who came by a steamer to Punalu’u went from tram to road cart to horseback. It took hours. Almeida opened the bag of coins and counting them all out on the stump, he gave half to DeMello. “Once again, you did good.” Almeida gathered up the stolen items and put them back into the satchel. “When do you go back?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll catch the W.G. Hall going back to Honolulu.”

“Good. Got to keep these things irregular.”

A burst of laughter from inside Volcano House sliced the thin night air. Both men froze and looked blindly in that direction. Almeida shielded his eyes from the lanterns to see more clearly. As his eyes adjusted to the dark beyond the corral, he saw no movement on the veranda. He began to relax.

“I betta go,” DeMello said. He shouldered a haversack and picked up a walking staff leaning against the corral rail.

Almeida pointed to the haversack. “What’s in that?”

“Nuthin’. Just paper.”

“Let me see.”

DeMello scowled. “What’d you think? I’m cheating you?”

“Just curious. That’s nice leather. Nice silver clasp. That a—a thistle?”

DeMello shrugged. He unlocked the clasp then flipped open the flap. “See? Papers.” He pulled a packet of papers wrapped with a heavy cotton cord half-way out. The mouth of the haversack sagged wider.

Behind the packet Almeida could see another packet and a Scribner’s Magazine. “Where’d you get this stuff?”

“Ho’okena.”

Almeida’s eyes grew sharp and wary.

DeMello pulled the packet out further. A title was neatly handwritten on the front page, but all Almeida could read were the words, “Bottle Imp.”

“See? Papers.” DeMello grasped the straps tighter. He jammed the packet back in, but when it wouldn’t go in straight, Almeida grew suspicious and jerked the haversack out of DeMello’s hands.

“Hey!”

“What is this?” Almeida lifted out a long, sharp letter opener. The jewels in the silver handle sparkled in the lantern light—green, white and ruby. At the top was a thistle. “Cheating me, were you?”

“Cheating? You forget we both thieves, only I take all the risks.”

“But we must share.” Almeida hung the straps of the haversack on his shoulder. He turned the letter opener around in his hands. “I’ll keep it. Once I sell it, I’ll split the money.”

“No! It’s mine. I found it. Give it back—”

DeMello’s words ended in a cry as Almeida grabbed DeMello’s walking stick and slammed it on his head. DeMello staggered back, his hands pressed to his head. Blood began to flow between his fingers. His vision blurred. The last thing DeMello saw was Almeida’s sneering face and the letter opener raised high.

Volcano House

Auntie Bee Takahashi is turning 80 and her friends in the U’ilani Book Lovers Club are planning a big celebration up at historic Volcano House.

Plans take a dangerous turn when a long missing manuscript of The Bottle Imp, Robert Louis Stevenson’s great horror story, shows up among Bee’s stack of books. Tied to an unsolved murder 125 years old at the old Kilauea hotel, someone doesn’t want the crime to come out.

When weird accidents and mysterious happenings threaten Auntie Bee and members of her book club, her great-niece crime reporter Wendy Watanabe will have to step in to keep her safe. At the heart of her investigation, are the secrets behind two warring families spanning four generations and a land grab.

Find it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction

J.L. Oakley

writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters come from all walks of life, but all stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her books have been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize, the 2014 First Place Chaucer Award, 2015 WILLA Silver Award and the 2016 Goethe Grand Prise.

When not writing, Janet demonstrates 19th century folkways, including churning some pretty mean butter.

Her most recent historical novel, Mist-chi-mas: A Novel Of Captivity, launched in September 2017. It is set in 1860 on San Juan Island in Pacific NW during a time with the British Royal Marines and US Army jointly occupied the island—peacefully.

Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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#StayHome author reading

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It’s still important to stay home and stay six feet away from others as much as possible to control the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

To help break up the feeling of covisolation, BestSelling Reads authors continue the live readings from their books. Last week, Scott Bury read from his first published novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth.

The Bones of the Earth

The Dark Age, eastern Europe: the earth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors.

Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather’s dagger and the murder of his family.

On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?

For the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, you can buy it on sale at Amazon.

Or download it for free from

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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