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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I am a traveller

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By Samreen Ahsan

The author at the Castle of the Moors, Sintra, Portugal.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

This quote indeed fits on me as a writer. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and have incorporated them in my stories. Or, if I had wanted to add a particular place in my story setting, I try to visit it, later on, to experience it like my character. 

The CN Tower, Toronto

My first story: A Silent Prayer, a multiple award-winning romance novel is set in the city of Toronto, where I currently live. I have taken this city as an inspiration: the charming Christmas time, which I’ve always admired walking through the downtown streets, the sound of Christmas carols, the aroma of hot chocolate and lattes. I have tried to introduce the flavours and aromas of my multicultural city. 

Great Pyramids and Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Since childhood, I had always wanted to visit the Pyramid of Giza but never had a chance. I introduced my characters to the majestic city of Cairo first, entering through the narrow passage of the pyramid, and a provocative conversation with a four-thousand-year-old jinni. I visited the pyramids later on, after publishing the series. As intrigued as my characters, I stayed in the same hotel across the River Nile as them, and I climbed the same claustrophobic passage of the pyramid, and had the same experience as them, except for meeting the real Jinni 🙂 

I’m also an admirer of castles and palaces, regardless of their geographical locations, and stroll through them. These grand castles and palaces, where people once lived, breathed and died, have always inspired me. 

“To Travel is to Live”

Hans Christian Andersen

In my second story, Once Upon A [Stolen] Time,  which is set in both contemporary and medieval England, I have introduced a fictional Hue Castle, which is a character on its own, inspired by many different castles and palaces and the darker elements from the Beauty and the Beast. There are certain parts in the castle that I took from real European castles: some chambers, the dining hall, the Great Hall, the library and the chapel. I feel very close to my character Myra, who, like me, has wanderlust, loves visiting historical places, admires art and poetry from the past centuries and who has always wanted to live in those palaces. This same interest as my character helps me write about the things I have seen and make her experience in the same way as I did. 

Windsor Castle, England

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” —

Henry Miller

In my upcoming novel Unveiled, I have introduced the city of York, U.K. in England, which I visited during the Holiday season of 2016. I fell in love with the city and decided to add it to my next story. I didn’t have a story in my mind at the time, but I knew that whenever I’d write, I’d make my character live in York. When I travelled to Istanbul last year, in April 2018, I had a trip to Princess Island with my friends via ferry. When we headed back to Istanbul, I saw the golden hour through the ferry and wrote the ending of the novel in my mind by gazing at the sun setting down. I never knew a moment of sunset in such a crowded city of Istanbul would give me inspiration. 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Though I write fiction, the travel experience in my books belongs to my real travel diaries. I know I can’t write science fiction in a place that doesn’t exist at all, or that is impossible to exist, such as landing on Jupiter, or some unknown planet, meeting aliens, because they can never be a part of my travel expedition. I love visiting new places, encountering different cultures, tasting different foods and walking through the passage of time.

I love to give my readers a sense of longing for a certain place, the same way I have felt after leaving those beautiful destinations.

Some travel photos

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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In the sunshine of words

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Summer, as we all know, is a magical time.

A time of glorious mornings, of high blue skies, of long, gentle evenings.

Of the feeling of soft grass under bare soles, of the delicious shock of water from the sprinkler.

It’s so easy for our eyes to stray from the stories on our computer screens or in our typewriters to the green vistas beyond the window. So many of us take the opportunity to move our laptops to a table outdoor.

And we find inspiration in the beauty of the natural world around us, or from the breathtaking achievements of people past.

So here are some photos showing the kinds of views that inspire some of your favorite bestselling authors.

Enjoying a quiet neighborhood, DelSheree Gladden likes to sit out on her deck to write during the summer. And she has a back yard that’s just about perfect.

Kayla Dawn Thomas also loves her back deck in Washington State. She sets up her writing desk there every minute the weather allows.

A quaint English garden is D.G. Torrens’ favorite writing place in the summer. “Especially when it is in full bloom and my cherry blossom tree is beginning to bear fruit, my garden is alive with birds and squirrels.” It’s a wonder Dawn can concentrate on her next book!

Water inspires Mary Doyle. “When I have a laptop near water, the words flow,” she says. So she likes to visit her brother and set up on his decidedly inspiring back deck in Minneapolis, MN.

Water is also a strong theme in Toby Neal’s inspiration. She finds beach walks inspiring. And with homes in Maui and near the coast of northern California, beaches seem always close at hand for Toby.

The peripatetic J.L. Oakley finds the white noise that surrounds her helpful, so she sets up at the closest café whenever she has the chance. “Plus, I get to watch the characters outside—weird and inspiring.”

Samreen Ahsan finds inspiration from old European castles and palaces, like this one, the Pena (“Feather”) Palace in Sintra, Portugal. This inspiration shows up in her fantasy novels set in a castle, Once Upon a [Stolen] Time and Once Upon a [Fallen] Time.

Scott Bury rides his bike 50 kilometres (30 miles) every day when the weather allows, and finds inspiration in the surprising sights. This week, he spotted a Great Blue Heron only metres from the bicycle path in the middle of Ottawa, Canada.

Tell us about your favorite place to read, and we’ll enter your name in a draw for a free book!

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Why that genre?

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Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Monday musings by your favorite bestselling authors

Readers often associate their favorite writers with a genre: romance, mystery, thriller, science-fiction or fantasy, to name just a few.

Why did the author choose that genre? Your favorite bestsellers answer that question this week.

Alan McDermott

Action thrillers

When I pick up a book I want it to keep me gripped from start to finish and be something I can relate to. I couldn’t see myself delivering that with a science-fiction or romance novel. I could try, but I know I would soon get bored with it. If the subject matter doesn’t interest me, I can hardly expect my readers to become engrossed. I think it is important that you write about what you love.

D.G. Torrens

Romance, memoir and poetry

I write about what interests me personally. If I won’t read it then I certainly will not write about it. It is important for me to love what I do. Therefore, I apply it to what genre I write in.

Samreen Ahsan

Historical fantasy and paranormal romance

I write what I enjoy writing most, keep the readers busy. Someday, when I itch to write science fiction, I’d love to write that. Regardless of what genre it is, I want my readers to keep guessing.

Mary Doyle

Mystery, fantasy and erotica

If I were traditionally published, my biggest fear would be a publisher that insisted that I write in only one genre. That would be the end of my writing career. I’ve written mystery, urban fantasy, erotica and memoir and someday soon I’m going to write some dystopian fiction … maybe zombie stuff, maybe some other end of the world thing. I won’t write in one genre and you can’t make me!

Raine Thomas

Young adult and new adult fiction

I write romance across multiple sub-genres (YA, contemporary, sports, Sci-Fi, fantasy). I’ve always been a romantic, so my writing will always reflect that part of me. I also love diversity and exploring new things, so branching into the sub-genres allows me to explore that too. Who knows where the Muse will lead me next?

Toby Neal

Mystery, thriller and romance

I think characters are most important in writing, because no matter what genre you are in, people want to follow a heroine’s journey as they develop. So while I mostly write mystery/thriller because I love puzzles and surprises and a lot of tension, I am always writing that character arc of development. Over and over, whether it’s a thriller, a romance, or my own memoir. Riveting characters in a process of growth is what keeps readers coming back.

Gae-Lynn Woods

Mystery

I’ve always been drawn to stories with multiple layers and characters who grow and change. I love the challenge of figuring out “who done it” in another writer’s work, and seeing if I can keep the reader guessing in my own. I end up creating the characters I want to know more about and writing the stories I’d want to read.

DelSheree Gladden

Young adult, new adult, romance, fantasy and more

I write in multiple genres because I read just about every genre and like to try new things in my writing. When an idea comes to me, I go with whatever genre seems to fit that story and let it develop organically. The character’s journey is more important to me than following genre conventions.

Caleb Pirtle III

Thriller, literary fiction and memoir

I generally write historical thrillers or historical mysteries because I prefer living in the past. There is a certain feeling of the unknown and unexplained in an earlier time, especially when my stories have a World War II backdrop. Evil has a face. And the night holds suspense with every tick of the clock. It’s difficult for me to write suspense when all my hero has to do is pull out a cell phone can dial 9-11 if he’s in trouble. I can research the 1930s and 1940s, and every incident I find hides a mystery just waiting to be found and told.

Next week: more authors on why they chose their genre, including David C. Cassidy, Scott Bury, Seb Kirby and more!

And happy Canada Day to all our Canadian readers!

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Secondary characters we love

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Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Great characters make great books. Creating great characters is something that every writer works very hard at. They’re what readers remember: Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, Bilbo Baggins, Lancelot. If the writer does their job right, we identify with the protagonist and experience the story through their senses.

But a story needs more than one character to come alive. The hero needs a villain, a best friend, a mentor, a love interest. Fagan, Watson, Gandalf and Guinevere are also characters that resonate with audiences.

For the author, these secondary characters can be great fun to create—and just as much work as the hero. We asked some of your favorite BestSelling Reads authors to tell us who is their favorite secondary character.

Samreen Ahsan

Of all the side characters I created, I have admired King Stefan from the [Stolen] Series. He is a tyrannical ruler whose mission is to break down his son Edward, and make a diabolical copy of himself.

Stefan is ruthless when it comes to punishment, and though he forbids his son to enjoy poetry, he himself reads poems, lives in them, and even fantasizes about the same woman his son loves. As the story progresses, he becomes more inhumane and evil towards his own son. 

Scott Bury

The character I enjoyed writing the most was Rowan Fields, the linchpin of Torn Roots, my first Hawaiian Storm mystery. She’s not very likeable: loud, opinionated, careless of others’ feelings, but she’s also passionate, dedicated to protecting the environment, and though she never admits it, deeply in love with the real hero of the story, Sam Boyko.

I have to admit, I still get a little thrill thinking about the insults Rowan throws around.

David C. Cassidy 

In Velvet Rain, the villain, Brikker is my favorite. He is cold, ruthless, sadistic … and brilliant.

His real-life counterpart would be Josef Mengele—and if Brikker were real, I’d wager he’d be far more terrifying.

M.L. Doyle

Harry Fogg (with two Gs) is a British SAS soldier and the love interest of Master Sergeant Lauren Harper in my mystery series. He is rough around the edges, a hardcore soldier, but has a brilliant sense of humor and tests my ability to write British-sounding expressions. I have to have some of his dialogue vetted by friends across the pond. I absolutely love Harry and my readers do, too.

I love all of my characters, but Granite and Pearl rank right up there as the best. They are cougar sized cats that were gifted to Hester Trueblood, in my urban fantasy series starting with The Bonding Spell. Hester, who also happens to be the embodiment of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, was given the cats by her demi-god lover Gilgamesh. Gil found them in room 56 of the British Museum, where they’d been magically imprisoned in stone. Once freed, the cats, who can talk to Hester telepathically, can also switch to human form. But they seem a bit confused when on two feet, so they prefer to be in their furry state. I love these cats.

Alan McDermott 

Simon ‘Sonny’ Baines is my favorite.

He has appeared in all the Tom Gray books from the very first, Gray Justice, and also appears in my new Eva Driscoll series.

He likes a little fun, but can be deadly serious when it matters.

Toby Neal

My favorite is Jake Dunn in the Paradise Crime Thrillers. An ex-Special Forces soldier turned private operative, he appears in Book 2, Wired Rogue, and in the rest of the series. Jake is all action and passion, a black-and-white thinker, a thrill seeker and fun-loving guy, and someone who is growing beyond his own comfort zone to appreciate the shades of gray in dealing justice. I tried to get rid of him several times, but my heroine pined and the stories lost zip and zing without him. He is more than he first appears, and I love that layers keep revealing themselves about him and what he brings out in those around him.

J.L. Oakley 

I have two favorite characters, both in The Jøssing Affair.

First, Tommy Renvik is a member of Milorg, the military resistance organization in Norway in WWII. A friend of intelligence agent Tore Haugland, he helps Haugland deliver arms and helps him escape to Sweden after capture by the Gestapo.

The other is Katherine Bladstad. In 1907, she is best friend to Caroline Alford. The wife of a logging mill manager, she is an outspoken proponent of hiking in the mountains and of the “New Woman,” a woman’s right to vote.

Caleb Pirtle III

I only needed Chester Giddings for one scene in Conspiracy of Lies.

He was a meek, mild-mannered little man so timid that a car backfiring would frighten him, and he occupied the second-story room of a walkup hotel where my hero needed to hide, unannounced, while the bad guys were trying to gun him down.

The scene ended with one dead, police crawling over every inch of the hotel room, Chester trembling and pale in the corner, and it was time for him to go. Chester refused to leave the story. He kept showing up when he was least expected, time after time, and near the end of one of the final climactic scenes, it was Chester Giddings who took a deep breath, clenched, his jaws, tensed his muscles, gave his heart to God, and fired the crucial shot. He didn’t leave because he knew that 182 pages later I would need him, and so I did.

Raine Thomas 

My favorite secondary character is probably Finn from my Estilorian novel, Deceive.

Finn is charming, quick with a laugh, and doesn’t take life too seriously, but he has a depth to his character that helps his family and companions through many of their challenges. I loved his shapeshifting character so much that he might make it into another Estilorian story…shh! 😉

Who is your favorite secondary character?

Tell us in the Comments section below who your favorite secondary literary character is — and if they’re from a book by a member of BestSelling Reads, we’ll send you a free book!

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Tuesday teaser: Once Upon a [Fallen] Time

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We know, it’s not Thursday, but we’re excited about the launch today of a brand-new time-travelling paranormal romance

By Samreen Ahsan

“I asked you, Edward, have you ever had a dream?” He looked me in the eye, examining my every expression.

I sank deeper in the velvet armchair and leaned against the backrest to look up at the ceiling. “Dreams are illusive fantasies. They never come true.” I looked back at him.

He didn’t take his deadly eyes off me. “So, you have fantasies?”

“You called to interrogate me?” I asked, irritated.

He chuckled and picked up the book. “I can assure you, dreams do come true.” He opened the book and handed it to me. I looked at the book carefully; the first illuminated parchment grabbed my attention. The book was written in Latin, but I knew it was the translation of Roman de la Rose (Romance of the Rose) by Guillaume de Lorris, a French poet who had existed almost two hundred years ago. I had seen this book back when I’d been a child. I knew it had been given to my father—a gift from an English poet I had once met in my childhood.

I focused on the image, a man lying on the bed, traversing into a dream. The image was surrounded with a text and decorated initials.

“Many men say that there is nothing in dreams but fables and lies,” he watched me as he read the verses. It seemed like he had memorized it. “But many may have dreams which are not deceitful, whose import becomes quite clear afterward.”

I regarded him with a sour expression. What was he trying to imply? That he had some stupid dream, which held some significance in his life? I looked back at the parchment and focused on what he was saying before I closed the book and placed it back on the table. I didn’t want to go down this road with him.

“What is the hurry, son? Don’t you fancy a drink with your old man?” he snickered and handed me a drink in a crystal goblet. He had never spoken to me like this—in a father-son way. It had always been a king and his descendant. I took a sip and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Do you know why I have called you here, Edward?” he asked, drink in his hand while he blew another puff. I waited for him to continue. “Remember I told you how hazardous a beautiful woman is?” I held my breath tightly. I had a feeling this was not going in a good direction. “She could poison our lives.” I bridled my wandering thoughts. “But…”

He stood up and walked about the darkened room. My eyes followed his haughty poise. There was something on the tip of his tongue he wanted to spill, but I didn’t know why he paused.

“But sometimes… a woman can change perspectives too.” He was walking back and forth. When he went towards his bed, I noticed his mirror was missing. Had he moved it somewhere else? He stopped walking and sat back in his chair. I looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate. “Don’t be so indifferent, son, that you don’t know what I’m talking about!”

I averted my eyes and looked towards the missing mirror, followed by the door that led to the secret spring.

“The woman…” he lit another cigar and looked at me, “that you call your captive,” he took a deep puff, “I’m trying to understand who the captive is and who the captor is here.” I threw daggers at him but held my tongue tightly. Anything I’d speak might go against her or me.

“From what I see, you didn’t even ask once if she was a peasant and you invited her to the royal table.” I moved forward while clasping my hands on my knees. “So, get to the point.”

He reciprocated my act by moving forward as well to look me in the eye.

“Didn’t you notice her?” God knew how much I noticed that woman so closely. “She is here…” he moved back and spread his arms, “in this cursed castle,” he shook his head, “and still the flowers in her hair didn’t wither.” He was completely drunk in his fascination for her. “Do you honestly think she was peasantry?” He looked agitated. “The silk she wore, and besides, do you think peasant blood is capable of bringing flowers inside this castle?” There was nothing I could say. I’d have to stick to the lies to protect her. “She is no ordinary woman, Edward.” He looked me in the eye. “The flowers on her didn’t wither. Do you know what this means?” I sod inside but tried to curb my temper. He was completely struck by her powers.

“She is a witch?” I asked hesitantly.

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.

It is available on Amazon today, May 21.

“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.

Once Upon a [Stolen] Time

2015…

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

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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