Writing in quarantine time

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Everything has changed: travel, work, leisure.

Visiting family and friends.

Writing has changed, too.

BestSelling Reads authors describe what’s different for them.

Alan McDermott

You’d think that being stuck at home would be great for a writer, but not this one. If I was alone it wouldn’t be such a problem, but with the entire family confined to the house, it’s not easy to find a quiet moment.

For the time being I’m not actually working on any particular project, but I am starting the outlines for three new ideas. One is the fourth Eva Driscoll thriller, the second is an FBI tale, and the third is another Ryan Anderson. I wasn’t planning on giving him a second outing so soon, but feedback from my novel Motive suggests readers put him on a par with Tom Gray, and many have said they can’t wait for Ryan’s next adventure.

Gotta keep the readers happy!

Seb Kirby

It was never going to be anything other than difficult during lockdown. On the surface it seems like a blessing that there’s more time to write, but it doesn’t work out that way. There’s just too much that’s very bad happening out there and too many brave public servants laying it on the line to try to protect us all.

In light of what they’re facing on a day be day basis, the comings and goings of my writerly imagination seem rightly of little import. I’d like to pay tribute to all those health workers and all the other essential workers who are facing this crisis head on for us all.

That said, I’m still producing, albeit in fits and starts. I’m working on a new sci-fi fantasy that places AI at the centre of a soon-to-come world where what it means to be human is placed under the microscope. It started out as a fun thing but has developed much deeper undertones as the story has progressed.

Toby Neal

I’ve been on lockdown for more than two weeks, and am literally watching the grass grow out my windows. I thought I’d get a lot done, but anxiety is a rat gnawing at my edges, and in order to write I have to shut everything off, put on headphones with instrumental music, set a timer, and hack through a scene, one tough word at a time.

I don’t need a ton of social interaction, but only seeing my dog and my husband for such an extended period has begun to feel like a twilight zone of sorts….but when I look outside to see that grass growing, the first buds of spring on the trees, daffodils pushing up through the earth—I know that this, too, shall pass. And I hope I will have made the most of it.

M.L. Doyle

I’m am so lucky. Not only do I have a job that I can do from home, I have a paycheck that will continue throughout this crisis. I have never felt as grateful for a steady income as I do right now. That said, I’ve also never been as busy. I am putting in longer hours almost every day of the week and as a result, I have not had the focus or the energy to devote to my fiction.

While I haven’t been able to write, I was thrilled to be able to do a couple of online events so far. A week ago, I appeared on a panel discussion of women veteran author panel discussion for the Centers for New American Security also read from one of my books during a Best Selling Reads Book Reading. It’s not writing, but it’s helped me keep in touch with readers. I hope to be back to creating very soon.  

D.G. Torrens

As an author, I am used to working from home, eagerly trying to complete my next WIP. However, the lockdown has changed the dynamics in my household massively.

My writing time is reduced not increased due to isolation and social distancing. I am now home-schooling my year-6 daughter daily Monday through to Friday. My husband is working from home too, taking conference calls throughout the day. So, I now have a house full constantly that I am not used to! It is challenging, to say the least.

One of several benefits: my gardens have received much attention, and they are looking fabulous. I have been upcycling furniture, too, and spray painting everything in sight!

A final word: I am so grateful to our wonderful NHS. They are our angels without wings and are having to fight the coronavirus head-on daily to save lives while putting their own at risk in the process. I will be eternally grateful to our NHS as we are fortunate to have such a great health system.

Readers: to break up the isolation, BestSelling Reads authors are doing live readings from their books on our Facebook page.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/BestSellingReadsPage/ on Tuesdays to hear from authors like M.L. Doyle, Alan McDermott, Scott Bury and more.

Just check our Facebook page, Twitter streams and other notifications for updates about the exact time.

Raine Thomas

Because I have a second career in events, I’m highly used to fitting in my writing time on evenings and weekends while my husband and daughter occupy themselves. My hours have been cut in my events role due to the impact of COVID-19, which actually leaves me more time to dedicate to my writing…a bonus in this bleak time!

I’m back to work on For the Win, my next baseball romance. Things are looking good for a summer release.

I’m also so grateful to everyone in healthcare, the sciences, retail/grocery, and every industry helping the world get back on its feet!

David C. Cassidy

I’m a fairly even-keel person, and I try to keep things in perspective as well as I can. Our current “new normal” is unsettling to say the least; frightening to say the most.

Like everyone else, I hear the news and feel that undeniable undercurrent of fear and anxiety. But as a person with many creative outlets, particularly writing and photography, I can always keep my mind busy. I’m not always successful, of course, especially now, but it’s my way of handling the situation.

In the end, we all have our coping mechanisms in place, and they get us through. So, for me, moving on with the work is so important at this troubling time.

J.L. Oakley

Being in the first state to report the virus, I watched in shock as the death toll climbed from February 29 on.

That very first week of March, I began to wear a mask and gloves, and carried hand sanitizer. I had just finished my historical novel. I needed to get a cover, edits to enter a contest, finish author notes and research.

I was already staying at the home, but when my chorale cancelled the rest of our season and deaths began to occur at a local nursing facility, the feeling of isolation began to take hold. My middle son lives with me, so we do social distancing. I can go out into my garden. I’m planning a garden extension. Can take the dog for a walk. I’m doing church, chair yoga, and my writer’s critique group through Zoom. I hunker down at night watching series on Netflix, writing extra parts for the novel and correcting the Norwegian words in the novel with the help of a friend who Norwegian. She’s a great beta reader, too.

Scott Bury

I find an inexplicable sense of normalcy and strangeness at the same time. I have less work to do, and therefore more time to write. I am also not commuting anymore.

I have managed to maintain my physical exercise regimen, which is a plus. And we’re not eating at restaurants, so we’re saving money.

At the same time, I do miss seeing friends, going to favorite restaurants and places in town, going to movies …

And strangely, I haven’t really accelerated writing. But I am making progress on my WIP, The Triumph of the Sky. Meanwhile, the real world continues to spark new ideas for novels.

One thing does make me feel hopeful: most people I see are doing the right things, in terms of physical distancing, staying home and so on. I hope that some of the attitude and practices I see continue after the pandemic becomes history, like more teleworking, and being mindful about infecting others if we’re symptomatic.

This may be a turning point in our history. Let’s hope that it’s a turn for the positive.

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Where does inspiration strike?

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Monday musings by BestSelling Reads authors

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

One question that every writer gets is about inspiration. “Where do you get your ideas from?”

The answers are as varied as the writers themselves. Many writers find inspiration from everyday events, from people walking past on the street, or from news stories. Often, ideas come not when we’re looking for them, but at really inopportune times.

Writers are not the only people who find this. Ludwig van Beethoven said he got his inspiration from walking in nature. There are stories about him walking in the countryside surrounding Vienna, singing his new compositions as they came to him. Unfortunately, being deaf, he had no idea how loud he was — until city officials told him about complaints from area farmers, who said he was scaring their cows.

Your favorite BestSelling authors also have found inspirations at … interesting moments. 

Alan McDermott: 

“My inspiration normally comes when I lay down for my afternoon nap. I started a new exercise routine a year ago, which involves getting up at 6 a.m. to check my emails and social media with a couple of coffees, then exercise on the bike for 40 minutes (the first of two stints during the day). At lunchtime, I do 15 minutes of weights, then have something to eat. Half an hour later, I’m ready for an hour in bed. That’s when the ideas usually start to flow. I guess I find it helpful to get away from the laptop for a little while.”

Scott Bury 

says he does his best writing when he’s not in front of his computer or typewriter. “My best sentences come to me when I’m doing something else: washing dishes, walking to the coffee pot, shovelling the driveway … 

“Then the real challenge is remembering the sentences, the particular arrangements of words, that come to me long enough to get back to the keyboard and jot it down.”

Bestseller Seb Kirby, 

author of the Take No More series and other psychological thrillers, also says he finds inspiration other than from his typewriter. “I get my best ideas early morning when getting out of the shower and drying. These can be plot developments, snatches of a character’s upcoming conversation or fragments of place description. I always have my tablet handy and use the Notes feature to capture those ideas before they fade.

“The beauty of using Notes is that this is not only captured on the table but is also synced through the cloud to my desktop, so as I write it’s easy to pull up those observations. 

“Overall I think this way of developing a story is proof of the comment made by the great surrealist painter Max Ernst: All good ideas arrive by chance.”

For Samreen Ahsan,

inspiration tends to come at inconvenient times: “In the gym, in the shower, before sleep, anywhere except when I sit in front of computer.” 

DelSheree Gladden

“I frequently get stuck in loops of insomnia, especially when I get stressed out or overwhelmed. I’ll lay awake for hours with my brain running wild with all the things I should or shouldn’t have done, need to do, am worried about, etc. To calm things down and attempt to get control of my thoughts, I plan out scenes for books I’m working on, or just random scenes that pop into my head. It helps me focus and usually helps we work through story issues.

Eventually I fall asleep, and half the time I forget most of what I worked out in those sleepless hours, but the major points usually stick with me long enough to get them down on a sticky note (which I will hopefully not lose before I can make use of it).

Raine Thomas

“When working through writing challenges, it’s most often while walking my dog that I get inspired.

If that doesn’t help, I chat it through with my alpha reader, my husband, or a close friend who isn’t as close to the project.”

Sydney Landon,

bestselling author of romances, also says she gets her best writing ideas far from a keyboard or screen. 

“I think I do my best thinking when I’m in the car driving alone.  Scary for the other drivers on the road probably!  But when you have kids, that can be your only quiet time.”

D.G. Torrens

agrees. “My best ideas come to me when I am not writing at all. I am a vivid dreamer. By that I mean, I often have dreams that thrust me awake during the night. The dreams are often intense and leave me wide awake for quite some time. One of my favourite novels that I wrote was born from a dream—Broken Wings.  

“Great things rise from the dirt—you only have to look at the rainforest”—from D.G. Torrens’ 2019 book, Midnight Musings

Keep coming back to BestSelling Reads to read the results of this inspiration from all our members. Better yet, subscribe to our e-newsletter, and download a free book from one of our members. Until the end of March, you can get Raine Thomas’ bestselling Estilorian Plane novel, Return of the Ascendant, for your Kindle or other e-reader. 

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Here the Truth Lies

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A mystery teaser for Thursday from the novel

By Seb Kirby

The easy part is killing them.

The tough part is luring them into the trap.

Evan Cargill looks at himself in the mirror as he shaves. Not bad for a forty-year-old, considering all he’s been through.

All that captivity.

The years in the children’s homes they forced him into were difficult but nothing compared with the times he spent in the Middle East, first as a soldier of fortune, then as a hostage.

They tried to break him every which way but all they did was hone his spirit of defiance. Each time they tortured him, he felt his body responding, strengthening, becoming ever more resilient. Each time they trashed him and left him for dead, he recovered, stronger, more determined.

He survived.

Time to take back what is owed.

But how can you reclaim a childhood?

That’s where it all began. The never-ending struggle that became his whole life.

He dries his face on the towel and dresses. Grey suit. White shirt. Polished black shoes. He checks once more in the mirror, straightening his tie. Nothing to give the game away.

The list. That’s what matters now.

He sits at the desk and starts the computer.

Who’s online today?

One of his personas is that of a ten-year-old boy. He’s taken the profile picture from a scouting magazine. As Will Murphy he will be quite a catch.

For the disgusting creature he’s about to lure and trap.

Not that this will be easy. His list has no real names, just screen names, the online false identities they use to attract boys like Will Murphy. Up to a dozen for each target on the list. It requires patience to entice and follow the targets home, one by one. But with the address, identifying them is straightforward.

Here’s one. Peter Booker.

He checks the list.

Peter Booker is an alias used by the last man he needs to find.

And, look, he’s offering to meet.

As Will Murphy, Cargill replies, suggesting where.

When the target agrees, Cargill ticks off the last name.

The game is on.

Here the Truth Lies

Sometimes your past is stranger than you ever imagined.

Emma Chamberlain has a consuming ambition – to prove the innocence of a convicted murderer sentenced to life. But the more she digs into the evidence, the more she is forced to confront threatening secrets about her own past that lead her to the ultimate question—who is Emma Chamberlain?

To discover the truth, Emma must expose those responsible for a dark conspiracy that has ruined the lives of many and now threatens her own.

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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A true Christmas story

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By Seb Kirby

Here is a true story that took place on a snowy night some years ago….

It’s Christmas Eve. My son Ben is 5, soon to be 6. He still believes in Father Christmas. I’ve convinced myself that the time has come to tell him ‘the truth.’

Harsh, you might think. But for the best. It’s not going to be much good if he goes on believing when all his school chums know ‘the truth’. They could end up thinking he’s a wimp. And I’m recalling the quandary I was in when I was Ben’s age when one of the kids in the street had taken delight in telling me ‘the truth’. I wanted to spare him that.

So, I’m standing next to Ben and we’re looking out of the window, out onto the street from the little terraced house in Swansea, South Wales. It’s snowing; one of those rare white Christmas things. And I’ve plucked up the courage to tell him.

‘You see, Ben, there is no Father Christmas. It’s just something grown-ups invent…..’

Ben’s not saying a thing. I’m beginning to think that I’m doing this well. But something has caught his attention further down the street.

Just then, right on cue, Father Christmas comes walking along, picking his way through the ankle deep snow. Dragging a small sleigh with a big white bag full of presents on it. As he comes closer, he sees us at the window and gives a wave and a cheery smile. I wave back.

Ben still says nothing. He’s a thinking child and he’s trying to weigh this up. Dad’s saying there’s no such thing as Father Christmas. Father Christmas has just come walking up the street dragging his sleigh and has just waved and given a cheery smile. Dad has waved back. Finally, Ben waves back and just says, ‘OK, Dad.’

The guy who’s just walked past is Brian, a teacher friend of the two girls who are our next door neighbours. He’s volunteered again this year to be Santa at the local primary school, just round the corner. He’s good at it. He has the full red and white Santa suit, portly gait and believable white beard. And the sleigh and the big bag of presents. I’m rubbing my eyes as he braves the steps to the house next door. He’s come to wish the girls a Merry Christmas in his usual exuberant way. I don’t know him well but I’ve spoken to him a few times, enough to give him a wave.

That was the best part of  forty years ago. I don’t think that Ben has ever wholly believed a word I’ve had to say since that day. How could you blame him? A lesson for us both in truth and reality, perhaps.

And the proof, if proof was ever needed, that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thanks to all those who’ve taken an interest in my writing during the year……

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books – his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

Other inspirations include Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and The Trial, George Orwell 1984 and Animal Farm, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley …

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More, which were recently republished by Canelo; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon  |    Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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A sense of place

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Monday musings on writing

By Seb Kirby

I think it’s important for a story to have a sense strong of place. You don’t have to point as far back as the importance of London in Dickens’ novels or the Salinas Valley in John Steinbeck’s ‘East Of Eden’. A more recent example is the coastal enclave of Montauk in the HBO long form TV drama ‘The Affair’. Place becomes as much a central character in these stories as the players themselves, breathing life into the story.

That’s why I’ve visited and spent time in all the places featured in my books. It’s not that I favor extensive descriptions of places (or people for that matter). It’s more that the feel of a place comes through in the writing once you’ve spent time there and absorbed the sights and sounds.

I was fortunate that before I took up writing full time my job obliged me to make many visits each year worldwide. This often took me to places in Europe (Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Crete, Denmark, Romania), the US/ Canada (New York, Boston, Monterey, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, San Diego, Detroit, Orlando, Minneapolis, London Ontario, Toronto) and the Far East (China, Japan). Because of the nature of the work, it was often possible to stay over after business was completed and explore. This gave some great eye-openers. Like an ill-advised bus trip from San Diego Old Town across the border to Tijuana that made real the vast disparities between two ways of life. Or spending time in English Corner in Shenyang (in what was Manchuria in northern China) where the charming locals come to practice their English—much of it gained from US film and TV—in conversation with visiting English speakers.

Though I travel less these days, I still pay regular visits to two places that are special to me and my writing: London and Florence, as much for their cultural vibrancy as their enthralling locations.

Sometimes whole plot lines emerge from a single observation. Like the time I was in a restaurant in Florence when they charged for an order I hadn’t received. When I went to complain to the manager, a heavy in a black leather jacket intervened to make sure I knew not to be too insistent and I should accept that overcharging was more normal here than where I come from. This formed the germ of the ideas that led to the organized crime elements of Take No More and the rest of the James Blake story. To be fair to the wonderful city of Florence, the presence of organized crime is a rarity this far north in Italy but this didn’t stop my leap of imagination and its usefulness in telling the story.

In the digital world, “visiting” places becomes simpler and less liable to destroy the planet with wasted plane travel. Google Maps with its street view feature allows an author to walk those streets again from the (relative) comfort of his/her writer’s desk. I find this a particularly useful means of visualizing scenes where characters are out and about, active in their location, especially to refresh memories of places I’ve walked myself. More comes back than the visual experience itself. I recommend this to all writers as a means of capturing a sense of place in their work.

However you do it, sense of place helps bring a story to life.

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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Publication day for BestSelling Reads author Seb Kirby

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Canelo Publishing of Southwark, London, UK has just published the bestselling James Blake series by Seb Kirby.

  • Take No More
  • Regret No More
  • Forgive No More.

Founded in 2015 by a group of publishing professionals with extensive success in the publishing industry, Canelo describes itself as dedicated to finding the most exciting books and publishing them to the highest standard. 

In addition to its main list, Canelo also incorporates the Frisch & Co and Abandoned Bookshop imprints.

“It’s satisfying to see the James Blake series having the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” author Seb Kirby said.

Take No More

When James Blake discovers his wife murdered in their London home, he is determined to avenge her, and bring her killer to justice.

As the prime suspect, he flees England and sets out on a journey that takes him to Florence, Venice and into a shadowy underworld of death and corruption.

The trail that will lead him to the killer is filled with terrible danger, and will reveal a shocking conspiracy, behind both her death and a lost fortune.

A thrilling, original and fast-paced crime thriller set within the art world, perfect for fans of Ken Follett, Dan Brown and Harlan Coben.

Regret No More

No one can escape from the past.

James Blake and his family were safe and secure  – until he received a phone call that could mean only one thing: their enemies knew where they were.

A stolen Picasso lies at the heart of an international conspiracy that reaches into the life of a prominent US politician, with devastating consequences not only for him but for anybody who happens to be caught up in the crime.

Wolfgang Heller, a ruthless assassin, is seeking to eliminate those who have any knowledge of the theft. James must come out of hiding and face the threats to his family by putting his life, and the life of his brother Miles, on the line.

Forgive No More

No more running, no more hiding – it’s time to fight back.

The Blake family can only live in security if the truth about the conspiracy threatening their lives is brought into the full light of day.

As the stakes are raised higher than ever before, James must return to Italy to confront those seeking to destroy those he loves. Forces from around the world, from Washington to Munich, London to Tijuana, are ranged against him.

As the mystery begins to unravel, a shattering revelation emerges. Dark secrets have survived down the centuries and are in the hands of those who threaten not only him, but the entire world…

From international bestselling author Seb Kirby comes the pulse-pounding finale to the James Blake thriller series, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben, Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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