Why I write

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Chromatic Typewriter created by Tyree Callahan

Monday musings by bestselling author

DelSheree Gladden

Writing is an important form a stress relief for me. It produces a tangible product that helps me feel like I’m actually doing something and gives me a chance to quiet the chatter in my head and explore the thoughts and emotions that inspire the chatter.

I started writing as a pre-teen, mostly coming up with rambling stories and vignettes that never really went anywhere. My early writings mimicked favorite authors, but were good learning experiences. I didn’t just learn the mechanics of writing and how to tell an interesting story. Those were important skills, but I also learned that writing provided an outlet for me.

As a kid, I was quiet and often lonely. I wasn’t very good at expressing myself or making friends. Writing let me say all the things I wished I could say to other people, express the difficult thoughts and emotions I was struggling with through characters’ stories, and vent the frustrations and joys I didn’t know how to talk about out loud.

I go through times when I quite literally need to write. When there’s too much going on inside my head or heart, I struggle to communicate it in a constructive way with the people in my life. I get emotional and reactive and end up making a mess of it most of the time. Writing, either as stream of consciousness writing or working on a book, allows me to sort out what exactly it is that’s causing so much strife in my life and figure out a better way to express it. Of course, this isn’t fool proof and I still end up in arguments or crying over stupid things when I get stressed out, but it helps organize the chaos in my mind a little better so it doesn’t happen as often.

Writing is self-care for me, but it also gives me the opportunity to share something of myself with others. Even as an adult, I still have a hard time making new friends and starting up conversations with new people. It’s overwhelming to start fresh when there’s so much backstory to explain! It’s how I often feel when starting a new book and having a handful of characters I’ve thought about and developed or a long list of research I want to shove into the story. Writing fiction has actually taught me how to be a little bit better at sharing the important parts of who I am with new people and letting the little details filter out where they fit best. I’ll never be outgoing or overly social, but I can at least talk to people without being overwhelmed by anxiety most of the time.

Like any creative art, writing is about expression, exploration, and getting to know yourself and the world around you a little better.

DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden

was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read.

Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by.

When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at

And find her on social media

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Why do audiences prefer fiction to fact?

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Monday musing on the difference between accuracy and believability

By Scott Bury

I recently saw a post by an author questioning the difference between historical accuracy, historical authenticity and believability. It’s an interesting question to me, because I write historical fiction and biography.

Accuracy and authenticity are not the same. In fact, they are in many ways opposed. Authenticity is more closely related to believability, and hinges on good story-telling. It has to “feel” right to the audience. Accuracy, unfortunately, is not always as exciting or captivating as a good, fictional story.

Hollywood to the … what’s the opposite of rescue?

An egregious example of this crucial difference is Ben Affleck’s 2012 movie, Argo. It purports to tell the true story of American diplomats taken hostage during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Except … it’s not all that true.

From the reaction, and the Academy Award nominations, the film really struck a chord with audiences, particularly Americans. For Canadians, though, not so much.

The film as shown downplayed the role of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, who took huge risks to get American citizens false identity papers and passports as Canadians, so they could get out of Iran.

The film played fast and loose with other facts, too — such as scenes showing how Americans were turned away from other embassies, and exaggerated the danger the American diplomats faced.

But it was a thrilling movie that won awards for writing, acting, editing and directing. Why? Because, forty years after the events, it echoed the audience’s impressions of the events.

Score one for authenticity over accuracy.

(Almost) stole my idea

Enemy at the Gates was one of the most powerful, moving films I had ever watched. With Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes and Ed Harris, it portrays the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943. Supposedly based on the book of the same name by William Craig, it has very little to do with the history of the events.

Yes, there was a Russian sharpshooter named Vasily Zaytsev (played by Jude Law) at Stalingrad, and a German sharpshooter brought from Berlin especially to eliminate him(Harris). And yes, there were female fighter in the Soviet ranks, including another sharpshooter or sniper named Tania Chernova (Weisz), and she and Zaytsev had a relationship.

But the details are all fictional. Red Army soldiers did not charge at the invading enemy without rifles, and the sniper’s duel between Zaytsev and Major Konings, not Konig, took only a few pages of the book.

The book is a meticulously researched, accurate account of the lead-up, battle and aftermath of Stalingrad. It was very useful as I wrote my biographical trilogy about a Canadian-born Red Army soldier, Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

The movie was a hit. Its depiction of the darkness and brutality of war, the squalid living conditions of the soldiers and the people of Stalingrad, the horrifyingly blasé attitude toward killing other people are what made it seem real to audiences. And we are willing to accept the horrors as real. Somehow, we can accept the idea of Soviet officers sending hundreds of unarmed men to charge into machine-gun fire, even if it never happened.

Sticking to the facts

It’s very important to me to get the details right in my fiction. I spent years researching the Eastern Front Trilogy (mentioned above). I spoke with the subject of the book, my father-in-law, Maurice Bury at length about the details that he witnessed. And I lost count of the number of books and websites I read and consulted for the larger sweep of the story, for the statistics and dates that key events happened on. Even for the military units that took part in various battles.

Getting the weapons right was also important. One of the details that Maurice told me about, that really stuck with me, was his description of the immense Soviet “Stalin” tanks that were so heavy, they sank into the mud.

Or the numbers of horses that both sides used to haul men and machines across the landscape.

And the noise — the thing that he remembered the most.

Even when writing historical fiction, I find myself spending hours researching history. For example, I am working on a fantasy set in the Eastern Roman Empire of the early 6th century CE (most people know this as the Byzantine Empire). It’s a fantasy, so the facts really aren’t that important, but I can spend hours looking up how long it would take to travel by horse from Constantinople to Nicomedia, or the types of clothes Romans wore in 602 CE, or the cost of a night in an inn or a jug of ale.

It’s my effort to bring authenticity closer to accuracy.

Fortunately, I have been able to find most of the answers I need, such as the cost of a horse or the denominations of Byzantine coins; the types of weapons and armour used by Byzantine soldiers and cavalry; they kinds of ships used. Roman historians were thorough.

Why is it important?

Why indeed? Depending on the genre, readers tend to be very finicky about details.

With thrillers and mysteries, readers will let the author know about errors when it comes to guns and ammunition. With historical fiction and non-fiction, readers tend to already know a lot about their favourite eras.

It seems that while audiences are willing to excuse departures from fiction on the big things, they’re not so forgiving when it comes to the tiny details.

It’s perplexing. Why do you think that is?

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, a pesky cat 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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The end of romance

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Romance Month, that is

It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the end of February. It’s a short month that somehow manages to feel like the longest of the year, yet slip through our fingers like late afternoon sunlight through vertical blinds.

Much of the world seems to have been afflicted with stay-indoors weather this month. Snow, wind, freezing rain—it doesn’t look like anyone has escaped, no matter where they live.

On the other hand, it’s been a good month for cozying up, with a good friend or a good book, or even both at once. (Add in cheery fire and a glass or two of red wine and I’m there.)

Romance isn’t going anywhere

Whatever you may think about the romance genre, it’s big. In the U.S. alone in 2017, readers bought some 21.5 million romance books, a close second behind suspense-thrillers at 21.8 million. Year after year, romance account for a fifth of all adult fiction sales.

Romance Month 2019 was good to BestSelling Reads authors and readers. We’ve sampled some sweet and some spicy scenes from DelSheree Gladden and Gae-Lynn Woods, M.L. Doyle, Scott Bury, Raine Thomas and Samreen Ahsan.

Other member authors told us about how romance fits into their books, often in ways readers don’t expect—but that they delight in. Like Alan McDermott, Toby Neal, Caleb Pirtle III and Corinne O’Flynn.

Now it’s ending, but don’t worry—there’s still lots of great stuff to look forward to from your favorite BestSelling Reads authors.

April is going to be mystery-thriller month, and we’ll be featuring some writing that puts you on a roller coaster. In June and July, we’ll showcase our best beach and dockside reading for you. And the fall will bring—what else?—horror, science-fiction and fantasy. And we’re going to end the year with some reading you’ll be proud to give as gifts.

What’s your favorite reading genre?

Your answers will help us make sure we continue to bring you the kind of books you love, while surprising you with authors who know how to break the boundaries. Just click on the form in the right-hand column.

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Monday musings: Travel, beauty and writing

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The Gothic-era Tyn Church in Prague’s Old Square, fronted by newer buildings that now make up its entrance.

People often say travel broadens you. It opens your mind and your heart to new ideas, exposes you to different cultures and people, and tends to make you more accepting of differences.

For me, travel is also inspiring—literally. When I travel, I often get new ideas for stories and novels. These can be sparked by people I see and meet, buildings, streets, forests, coastlines—just about anything.

I recently returned from a visit to Prague and the Czech Republic. If you have been, you’ll know how beautiful that capital city is. If you haven’t been, you should put it on your list of places to visit.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Square, built in 1410.

Prague itself is an arrangement of architecture that, for at least 700 years, has intended to embrace the current styles, yet fit in with the established buildings. As one of the travel guides points out, you can stand in the Old Square and see architecture of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco periods. And you don’t have to walk far to find later examples — the Cubist house of the Black Madonna is just steps from the square.

At least in the centre of the city, it’s hard to find a building that’s strictly functional—almost all are beautiful in some way.

Inspiration

The Municipal Hall is too prosaic a name for this Art Nouveau building on the National Square, home of two concert halls, including Smetana Hall.

Walking through a city that’s new to me gets my imagination going. It’s easy to think of the beginnings of stories, more like dramatic situations. But in Prague, I came up with more of a feeling or a theme than a plotline. The juxtaposition of buildings from every era of the past 700 years points to a Prague characteristic: its continual embracing of the modern while honouring, and making full use of tradition.

It brought to mind a kind of story of two people in a relationship, who are both trying to solve the same problem: one from a 21st-century approach, based in science and technology; and the other taking an older, more traditional perspective informed by psychology and religion.

This building is the home of the Hotel Paris in central Prague.

Prague has always been known as a music-loving city. Mozart loved Prague, and Prague loved him back. Today, you can find street performers at almost any time, any place—and theyre really good. These guys called themselves the De Facto String Quartet, and played a version of Stairway to Heaven that sounded terrific.

I don’t know what the problem will be, yet, nor what the plot points are. But I have the characters worked out. And it will definitely be set in Prague.

As if the architecture, art and music arent inspiring enough, Prague has immortalized its favourite native-born author, Franz Kafka, with this metallic scupture of his head. The sections rotate independently, according to some program that occasionally lines them up to reveal the writer’s likeness.

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Meet the author Monday: Claude Bouchard

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A couple of months ago, Bestselling Reads’ fearless leader, Scott Bury, asked the group’s members to answer a few questions. Some did, may didn’t and Scott has recently moved into “veiled threat” mode with the procrastinators. Such a tactic usually would not impress me but Scott does live a mere two hour drive from my home so, here we go!

How many books have you written?

I’ve written fifteen books to date with my sixteenth currently in the works.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered an instalment of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered part of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

For one, they’ve gotten older. For whatever reason, I’ve always dated my books and kept up with the years over time so my characters have aged along with all of us. Their thinking has also changed along the way as they’ve adapted to various situations. Without going into detail, Vigilante, the series opener, dealt with a serial killer involved in pure vigilantism. However, as of book 2, The Consultant, a clandestine government group was introduced, thus formalizing (or legalizing) unconventional methods of dealing with crime. It’s been interesting and fun to have these government assassins intermingling and developing professional relationships and friendships with homicide cops.

How has your style changed over that same period?

My basic voice and style have remained relatively intact. I’ve always been fairly concise with little use for fluffy fillers to increase word count and that hasn’t changed. My writing flows more nicely and is less choppy today than it was in my first books several years back.

Has the way you write, or your process, evolved? 

I’ve rarely used outlines, at least not in the sense of mapping out an entire storyline before getting into actually writing it. I will sometimes quickly outline the next handful of scenes as ideas come to mind, in order to respect the timeline of events and, more so, to avoid forgetting those ideas. What has certainly helped over time is the Internet, making required research much easier and efficient than when I wrote Vigilante in 1995. As for character creation, if something needs to be done and I have nobody to do it, I create someone. Travel has allowed meeting people from all over and has certainly facilitated building realistic worlds. In fact, some of my books were set in places I’ve visited, including Paris, Vietnam and the Caribbean.

Is there a particular time or place you like for writing?

Afternoons are when I do most of my writing, though that can vary on occasion. Unless I’m traveling, I write in our study with my trusty desktop and dual monitors. The one exception was The First Sixteen, a prequel novella and the ninth in my series, which I initially wrote in Pages on my iPad.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

The weird place inside my head which is fed by daily events stemming from all over the world.

Connect with Claude Bouchard

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Monday Musings: Three Tips for Writing Memorable Characters

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When it comes to characters, I like to interact with mine. It helps me get to know them better before I write them into my stories. Sometimes, I become my protagonist and develop entire scenes and chapters in my head.

It may be one of the insanities of being a writer that we create imaginary friends and allow them to speak to us. We instinctively breathe life into our characters by getting to know them as intimately as some of our real-life friends. Because characters grow through the pages and expose the events of a story, the more vividly we describe them, the more readers are able to connect to them.

So … how do we create these memorable characters?

James bond

James Bond

Here is what works for me. Most of my characters, if not all of them are based on people I have met. Some are friends, some acquaintances, and some I’ve met only virtually. Yet, they have one quality in common—uniqueness, or in other words, something that makes others curious about them.

Remember the last time you attended a wedding, dinner party, or some other social function? Who made an impression on you, and why? Did the person have an interesting profession or hobby? A facial tic? An annoying pattern of speech? Whatever the trait, good or bad, it is this oddity that makes a character memorable in fiction.

Whether we know it or not, we incorporate the personalities of real people into our stories anyway, but when we take the time to consciously look for unique traits, we heighten our awareness of characteristics we find interesting. This insight improves our characters’ profiles, and because they are based on real people, it lends an air of realism to them too.

edward scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands

It’s important to pay attention to these oddities since basing characters on established stereotypes robs them of originality. Stereotypes are like clichéd phrases. As they become repetitive and weary over time from overuse, they tend to drag down our prose.

How original is the dumb blonde, the cheating, alcoholic ex-husband, the womanizing bad boy? You know these characters because you’ve read or seen them on television—over and over again. They’ve become predictable.

In real life, we like to meet unique, interesting people. This is the same in fiction, so if you want your characters to be memorable, give them traits that are unique. It’s okay to exaggerate eccentricities so long as you can explain them during the course of the story. In real life, people are unbalanced and inconsistent, but stories have a finite timeline. If you highlight a peculiarity about a character, make sure you expound on the reason for it.

thelma and louise

Thelma and Louise

Here are three simple tips to remember:

1) Show us your characters by their actions. Your characters can be witty and spout interesting philosophies, but in the end, they are what they do. We judge people by their actions, so make them DO STUFF. This will allow readers to discover each character’s motivations as well.

2) Take your characters “out of character.” This goes back to eccentricities. Imbue them with contradictions. Just remember to explain these within the narrative.

3) Give them quirks, tics, and other oddities. Not every character needs to be peculiar, but use these distinguishing features to allow readers to tell your characters apart.

So … go ahead and write about the raven-haired beauty who’s smart as a whip but was born a blonde, the husband who cheated but refused to divorce his wife, the bad boy who loved women but had no clue how to get a date.

The next time you interact with someone, whether in person or not, keep an open mind for weird idiosyncrasies. If you write these well into your characters, your reader will follow them through suffering and celebration, love and heartbreak—every hurdle you throw their way. And your unique characters will stay in their memories long after they’ve finished reading your book.

~ eden

About the author

eden at benmcnallyEden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres. She has written three collections of erotic novellas and flash fiction—Spring into Summer, Fall into Winter, and Hot Flash, along with contributing to the anthologies: Allegories of the Tarot, Indie Authors Naked, and Triptychs.

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called Stranger at Sunset. In addition to working on her next novel, Eden created Lainey Lee for the Lei Crime Series, a feisty divorcée who finds adventure and romance in Hawaii. Her novellas for the series—A Snake in Paradise and SEAL of a Monk can be found on Kindle Worlds.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! Connect to her via all her networks. She loves talking to readers! 

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