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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New book launch: Somewhere in Wine Country

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A new series by BestSelling Reads author Toby Jane

Nothing could go wrong with this scenario.

I watched my family’s vineyard fall under the auction hammer, holding back tears of grief and rage. What should be mine went to a stranger.

I want to hate Kane McCallum and his dark blue eyes. He has everything: looks, money, even a big, lovable dog. Now he’s offered me a job managing the vineyard—my vineyard.

I can stay in my family’s home, but only if I work for him.

I’m a billionaire looking for something more.

I don’t want to care what happens to prickly Meg Villier, but I see hard work and courage in her calloused hands.
Passion in the curve of her generous mouth.
Tenderness in the way she treats my dog.

Available TODAY from Amazon:

Toby Jane

is the romance pen name for bestselling mystery writer Toby Neal. Romance allows her to indulge in the delight of love stories with happy endings, big families, and loving pets.

Toby also writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

If you like Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, Bella Andre’s Sullivans, or Melissa Foster’s Remingtons, you will love Toby Jane’s Michaels sisters, and their children, in the Somewhere Series.

 Visit her on her:

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What does “show me, don’t tell me” mean?

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Monday musings on writing

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

By Scott Bury

Characters are what stories are about.

Plot is essential—we had to have a story to tell. Something has to happen, something that matters to you, the readers.

But it has to happen to someone we care about, or identify with, or connect to in some way. That connection has to happen on an emotional level.

As readers, we need to feel those emotions. This is where the “show, don’t tell” rule comes in.

It’s easy to write “She was shocked by the news.” It would be slightly better to write “The news shocked her.”

But we feel it more when we read, “Her throat felt dry and she fell back into the chair.” We know what causes that reaction. We feel it in our throats and our knees, too.

In my work in progress, I came upon a situation like this:

Javor unsheathed his dagger and stepped into the stream. Frigid shock traveled up his leg and his back as the water surged over the top of his boot. He clamped his jaw and stepped further, fighting the current that pushed him back.

The character’s reaction to the situation and the sudden wet shock to reveal something about him.

Gae-Lynn Woods does something very similar in the first chapter of The Devil of Light:

She glanced in the rearview mirror and caught the fury in the flat line of her mouth and the contraction of her brow. Again she breathed deeply, forced the tension from her body and felt exhaustion ooze in to fill the void. When she checked her reflection again, her violet eyes were still weary and her creamy skin too pale, but the imprint of anger and fear on her features was gone.

In these few sentences, we learn the character’s (Cass Elliot) mental state and see that not only is she aware of it, she knows some techniques to manage it.

Raine Thomas does even more in Return of the Ascendant:

She hadn’t gone ten feet before she spotted the dorm monitor, Rachel Ferris, stepping off the elevator with a distinct post-coital glow. She wore a self-satisfied smile, an incorrectly buttoned short-sleeved top, and a mussed hairdo. The sight of her had Kyra narrowing her eyes even as she debated whether to talk to her at all.

In this, Thomas tells us a little about Rachel Ferris, but shows us much more—and about the main character, Kyra, as well.

David C. Cassidy is all about showing, not telling. Take this sample from Velvet Rain:

Iowa beckoned, and by the third week in May, Kain crossed the state line. Des Moines he avoided—too many faces—and he worked his way west. He crossed the Little Sioux River, and by the time he arrived in the quaint town of Spencer, he was completely taken by the Hawkeye State. Iowa was like a slice of Heaven, its heart pulsing with gorgeous lakes and seas of fields. And now, climbing out of the back of the pickup he was riding in, the warm sun and the sweet breeze seduced him into thinking he might stay a while.

Don’t fall in love with it, he thought. Don’t you do that.

Toby Neal knows how to use just a few words to tell a lot. Here’s a sample from Bone Hook, her 10th Paradise Crime Mystery:

Lei couldn’t mistake the admiring glint in Thomas’ eye. She reached out and too the suit with her left hand, hoping he’d spot the wedding ring on her finger.

“I’ll yell for a bigger size if I need it.” She turned and went into the boat’s tiny head. She’d grabbed her bikini out of her truck when they’d gotten the call that the body was submerged, so she got into that first. Sure enough, with some hopping, pulling, and cramped gymnastics in the small space, Lei was able to get the rubber suit on.

Those are just a few examples. BestSelling Reads authors are masters at story-telling, at creating fully fleshed characters that readers want to know better.

That’s why our readers keep coming back: for compelling writing that puts them right in the story, where they can not only see, but hear, feel and smell the situation, and where they can feel what the characters are feeling.

So keep coming back. And tell us what you love to read.

We love to hear from you.

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Why I write, and the role of Resistance

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Monday musings by bestselling author

Toby Neal

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

I write because I have to. I write because I’m driven to.

Sub-reasons exist: I write because it helps me know what I know. I process my life experiences and understand them better through writing. I write because I’m a born storyteller who loves both reading and writing. I write because I have stories banging around in my head that want to be let out.

I wish there were a prettier answer, something philosophical or otherwise groovy—there isn’t. Here it is: I write because I’m driven to.

And yet, I spent many years—most of my life, in fact—NOT writing. Living in a half-light, half-life filled with many worthy activities masquerading as purpose, like working at a meaningful career, marriage, keeping house, raising kids. I even did a three-year Master’s Degree to avoid doing the writing I was called to.

How can this be, when I’ve always been driven to write? In a word: resistance.

Steven Pressfield’s cult classic book, The War of Art, is a vital expose of this pernicious influence. This slim tome is written in small, dense, intense nuggets, as if Pressfield had his hands full just discharging the vital one-paragraph bullets that expose the battle against Resistance. “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from any work-in-potential. It’s a negative repelling force. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

You must, if you want to write, overcome Resistance. I finally did, by outwitting it. When I was forty and the lies about what I was supposed to be doing instead of writing began to unravel, I started an anonymous blog on LiveJournal and entered little writing contests. I wasn’t actually committing to anything; no one knew me there. I allowed the thoughts, the fear of failure, of mockery of broken dreams to swirl around, and I wrote anyway. I endured the mental battle against writing, without overtly resisting it. For me, Resistance is bested through a sort mental tai chi, interspersed with plain old stubbornness and refusal to give up. I eventually outwitted it enough to complete my first book. And then another, and another, and another.

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

Want to know what Resistance sounds like, even for someone who makes a six-figure annual income from writing and has won numerous awards?

I put my pen to paper and asked for a quote for this article from Resistance, and it obliged swiftly with this creativity-killing missile:

“You’re a shitty writer. Always have been. All those grandiose ideas about your talent when you were a kid? Ridiculous. You’ll never amount to anything. Show some dignity! If you couldn’t write when you were younger, what makes you imagine you can do it when you’re fifty-five?” (I just celebrated this dubious milestone.)

The cruel, vituperative tone of Resistance is unmistakable, and it pisses me off. For thirty years, I let Resistance keep me down, sprinkled with excuses and distractions like marriage, work, and raising kids—but in spite of that foul voice in my head, I’ve persevered in my writing until I know I’m at least decent, no matter what Resistance tells me.

Are you a writer or other creative? Get smart and find a way to outwit Resistance. Your calling is waiting for you—and thirty-plus books later, I’m glad I keep fighting the good fight to do my writing.

Toby Neal

Toby Neal, mystery, thriller, romance and autobiography

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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A great year ahead for avid readers

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Did you notice the new year, or were you’ve been too engrossed in that latest series from that new favorite author to notice when it came time to replace your calendar.

But the new year and (according to some), a new decade have arrived. And with them, some exciting developments for avid readers out there: new contests, new ways to connect with your favorite authors, and best of all, lots of new books.

We have new books from your favorite bestselling authors coming out, including a new Tom Gray prequel, Gray Genesis, from action/thriller author Alan McDermott.

Scott Bury is hard at work on the long-awaited sequel to The Bones of the Earth, The Triumph of the Sky, and has plans for a new Hawaiian Storm mystery before the summer comes.

The prolific DelSheree Gladden is going to publish the second half of her two-part contemporary romance, Memory’s Edge.

D.G. Torrens is bringing us a whole new “Secret Romance” with Full Circle and Full Intention. It’s a story about how the passing of time and age cannot break a connection sealed in youth.

Now separated by oceans and their different lives, will Matthew and Dena’s connection survive, or will it be severed once and for all?


More benefits for readers and subscribers

As a group, we’re planning new ways and new platforms to converse with you, our readers. We want to hear what you love, what you hate and what you’re looking forward to when it comes to reading.

We also have some generous promotions and giveaways coming: e-books, paperbacks and collections, as well as some great swag. Keep watching this blog!

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Clipped Wings

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Enjoy this sample of the brand new Paradise Crime Mystery Novella Book 4.5 with Hawaii Recipes

By Toby Neal

Rosario dried her hands on a clean white towel and took the order sheet on its clipboard off of the metal rack that held her favorite pots and pans, and headed for the walk-in refrigerator.

She pulled open the heavy steel door of the walk-in, and parted the dangling plastic panels that helped keep the cold inside. As she stepped through, she inhaled deeply, taking in the rich smells of ginger, onions, garlic, and fresh vegetables, with overtones of the tropical fruits that were a unique part of Hawaiian cooking. She stepped forward on the raised rubber flooring with its round holes for traction and drainage, and examined the rack of metal shelves that lined the chilly room.

She had established an order of storage for the items, so it was a fairly rapid process to check how many eggs and how much butter, cheese, salad dressing, sauces, fruits and greens she had.

Rosario and her brother Wayne had grown up poor on the Big Island. They were the surviving offspring of a Portuguese paniolo ‘Hawaiian cowboy’ on a big Waimea estate, and his Hawaiian wife, their beloved Mama, who’d cleaned and cooked for the family that owned the ranch. Wayne had taken to the paniolo lifestyle in his father’s footsteps, while Rosario had learned her mother’s skills in cooking and estate management.

Photo of the Island of Hawai’i by Sarah Humer on Unsplash

Their parents had died in a car wreck when she and her brother were in their late teens, and Rosario had moved to California, hoping to build a better life for herself—which she had done in working her way up to into establishing Aunty’s Hawaiian Food Place with her partner, Momi.

Rosario ticked down her order sheet on autopilot, her mind drifting back to the ways that life had taken dark turns: her brother Wayne and his wife Maylene falling into drugs. Maylene’s death by overdose while Wayne was incarcerated, which had brought their feisty daughter Lei to live with Rosario at age nine.

Her niece Lei had had a traumatic and abuse-filled childhood that had left her with lasting scars, but Lei had come so far in overcoming her past that she was now an FBI agent on Oahu.

And with any luck at all, she’d be coming to her aunt’s for Christmas this year.

Rosario inhaled the smell of baby new potatoes, parsley, mint, and ginger in their boxes, instinctively sniffing for anything spoiled.

There was—a small red potato with a spot of black rot. Rosario extracted the offending tuber from the box and opened the square, sealed bin where she stored spoiling food and leftovers from the restaurant to feed to pigs at a friend’s farm, in trade for a supply of fresh pork.

Her eyebrows rose as she dropped the spoiled potato into the bin.

It should be nearly full after three days. She had the waitstaff scrape plates into a special garbage bag, and then deposit it in the bin along with any expired, unsold food from the stand of convenience foods Rosario kept stocked at the counter. Several bags of leftover food and a half dozen expired hard-boiled eggs, along with some papayas and avocados she’d bought for garnishes that had been overripe, should be in the bin.

But there were only two eggs, no papayas or avocados, and a couple of white plastic bags of leftovers.

Rosario was the one to take the bin to the pig farm twice a week; who would take food meant for the animals?

Clipped Wings

Clipped Wings cover

Even Christmas can be darkest before dawn.

She just wants to survive.

The sixteen-year-old Robin Hood bandit responsible for starting an anarchy movement in Hawaii is now the target of an escape plot at a juvenile detention center, sparking FBI agent Lei Texeira to get involved with a manhunt.

She just wants to find the burglar.

Someone is stealing food from Aunty Rosario’s restaurant kitchen, but the holiday takes an unexpected turn when she catches the thief in the act.

Favorite Hawaii recipes submitted by readers and served in Aunty Rosario’s Hawaiian Food Place restaurant are included!

Clipped Wings 4.5 takes place between Broken Ferns #4 and Twisted Vine #5. A portion appeared as a short story in an anthology.

Find out more on the author’s website.

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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