Why I write—and why I write what I write

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Monday musings from bestselling author

David C. Cassidy

I’m a visual person. A creative person. As a photographer, I’m trained to “see” images before I make them. I’m trained to “create” them.

For me, writing is equally visual. I see words in my head; entire scenes play out like a movie. Some would call me a scatterbrain, and they’d be right. My head is in a state of constant flux. Words and images bombard me all the time, at the same time. Think of it this way. If the human mind was a bowl of Smarties, mine is a bowl that’s been dropped to the floor, those sugar-coated yummies rolling away in every direction. It’s brain bedlam.

So why do I write? It’s the only way I can bring order to chaos. In photography, the chaos comes from standing in front a subject and considering the different ways I can make that killer shot. What lens? How much depth of field? What light will work best? Colour? Black and white? So much chaos. It sounds melodramatic, but you get the idea—making “the shot” brings order. A kind of inner peace, if you will.

When I’m writing, the chaos is all those details that make up a book. Characters. Relationships. Plot. Setting. Conflict. Resolution. Sorting these all out and weaving them into a compelling story brings order for me. It ends the chaos, and, like making that great photo, brings calm. Brings peace.

So why do I write what I write?

I’m known as a horror writer. But it’s not what I write. I write people.

You read that right.

Not, about people. People. Period.

My favorite films and books are all character-based stories. Sure, I love a good shoot-em-up or an episode of Star Trek as well as the next person. But only if it’s got great characters. What happens to them is secondary. If I don’t care for them, can’t relate to them, why shed a tear when little Billy gets his limbs torn off by the Swamp Monster? The reason Titanic works so well is not the special effects or the tragedy, it’s our heartfelt connection to Jack and Rose.

It comes down to this: I write people, because people are what you and I are. It’s not the bad shit that happens to them that we care about, that’s just the glue for a good yarn. It’s their story—their struggle. What it’s like for them, as an individual, to be human. To know sadness and joy. To live and to love. To fear and to die.

And for me, that brings calm … brings peace.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek inside my messed-up mind. To see what really makes me tick—and a wacky little video of what I do—visit www.davidccassidy.com/about.

Happy reading!

David C. Cassidy

David C. Cassidy

Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several chilling books of horror and suspense. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram

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Why do I write?

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Monday musings by bestselling author

Scott Bury

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

This is a question that writers get a lot, right up there with “Where do you get your ideas from?” 

Both questions have the same answer: I write because I think of new stories all the time.

The ideas just come to me.

What’s going on in the world around me sparks many stories, but it seems my subconscious twists reality and often forges new ideas on its. own. 

This morning,while I was lying in bed awake after the false nuclear scare in Ontario, a story came to me. It’s about a fighter pilot with the nickname “Sapphire,” which is an oddly feminine nickname. Sapphire, himself, is not bothered by that, although others are. In the story, there is another person, not a pilot or even a military person, who is obesessed with Sapphire. However, the pilot is not. aware of this obsession, and only gradually becomes aware of being stalked. 

It’s only the beginning of a novel, of course. But the point is, this story came to me from … Well, I guess, my dreams.

There are so many other stories swirling in my mind. Stories I haven’t written down solely for lack of time.

RIght now, the story I am working on is a sequel to my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. I have come up with the title The Triumph of the Sky (you can work out the opposition forces from those clues.) But concentrating on that requires that I put these other stories on hold, at least until I finish Triumph

These are stories like:

  • Dead Man Lying — the revised, extended edition of the novella I published four years ago. Set in Hawai’i, it’s about the mysterious death of an aging rock star, and the conflicting stories he told his family.
  • A near-future dystopian story about life following a two-degree global warming, in which because of financial pressures, the U.S. has fractured and China is the sole superpower in the world.
  • Dark Clouds — extending the short story I published six years ago, combining urban occult fantasy and spy thriller
  • Echoes, the working title of a crime story based on two favourite songs from my teen years
  • The Travelling Cat, a humorous story about a cat who sneaks onto an airplane and learns the truth about airline food and other atrocities
  • Wine Country Mystery #2, the follow-up to Wildfire. In this one, I want to write about Ta migrant worker in California, falsely accused of a crime. 
  • The Doctor’s In-Laws (working title), essentially a story about not keeping up with the Joneses.
  • A magical realistic story set in Prague, about a Canadian woman who discovers hidden strengths.
  • How to Drive Your Wife Insane—sort of a reverse how-to book. I’m still working on the research.
  • The Last Tiger, a middle-grade book about two brothers in the Russian Far East.
  • The Outsiders — okay, I realize the title has been taken, but this is about people who want to make an impact on their society, but face the obstacle of not being part of the accepted club.
  • Lightning Strikes — 30 years ago, I wrote a novella that I never published and in fact showed only to one other person. It see it as the first part in a novel about a man forced into a life of crime by a corrupt corporation.

There are more, as well, but I won’t belabour the point.

Which is this: I write because there are stories that have to be told. 

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Bookshots: Stories read with the speed of light

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It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

By Caleb Pirtle III

Several years ago, something happened.

And I don’t know why.

My writing changed.

My style changed.

I began writing short.

Then shorter.

I didn’t sit down one morning, stare down at my keyboard, and say, “Well, I think that sentence would work better if it were shorter.”

But there they were.

Scattered on the page.

Short words.

Short sentences.

Short paragraphs.

Short chapters.

Shorter books.

Jump into the story.

Don’t tarry.

Leave when the story is told.

Now, apparently, the great James Patterson agreed with me.

Patterson launched a whole new line of books.

He called them Bookshots.

They were short, 40,000-word novellas designed to be read quickly and cheaply and at one sitting.

You can race through these, Patterson says.

They’re like reading a movie.

He calls them stories at the speed of light.

Patterson says he wants to tap into a new market: the twenty-seven percent of Americans who have not read a book of any kind in the past year.

Why?

Books, they say, are too long.

Hardcover books, they say, are too expensive.

In reality, Patterson brought back the dime novel.

In today’s hectic, fast-paced, impatient world, there’s no reason to write long when short can do the job much better.

For example, I no longer write a chapter describing the sunset.

I merely write: “The sun fell red like blood beyond the trees and into the river.”

No more.

No less.

I don’t need to write a thousand words to describe the sun going down.

We’ve all seen it go down.

We know how it looks.

We know what it does.

My latest release is Lonely Night to Die, which has three noir thrillers written as novellas.

Each one stars the same character.

He’s CIA.

He’s rogue.

The CIA wants him dead.

Patterson would call them bookshots.

I won’t disagree.

More and more, I am embracing the admonition that’s it’s best to enter a story late and leave early.

Others in the writing profession have been doing it for a long time.

As August Wilson said, “The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is.”

And Josh Billings pointed out, “There’s great power in words if you don’t hitch too many of them together.”

Even Thomas Jefferson had an opinion: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

As far as Baltasar Gracian was concerned, “Good things, when short, are twice as good.”

John Rushkin believed, “Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them, and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

Said Diderot: “Pithy sentences are like sharp nails driving truth into our memory.”

Mark Twain warned, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

And Friedrich Nietzsche summed it up by writing: “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”

When it’s all said and done, however, I prefer the insights of Arthur Plotnik and Robert Southey.

Said Plotnik: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside of you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

Southey then drove the point home: “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”

That says it all.

No need to write anything more.

I’ll quit.

And let Southey’s words burn and be read at James Patterson’s speed of light.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha ConnectionSecrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

BestsellingReads author page    |    Amazon Author Page    |    Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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It’s bookstore season

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Monday musings on books

By Scott Bury

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.

We’re well into the fall season now. Where I am, the bright yellow, orange and red leaves are already thick on the ground, illuminating the bicycle path where it’s covered by overarching branches with a golden light.

It also turns out that it’s a busy season for authors willing to set up a table and meet potential readers. The bookstores in my city (Ottawa, Ontario) have their schedules filled with writers who sit behind a table groaning under their books.

Usually.

Personally, I love book signings, sales and other events where I can talk with readers directly. I’ve done a number of the past couple of years. Some were terrific, with lots of traffic and interaction. Some were … not so much, where I sold one or two books. And there was one where I did not sell a single copy.

For example, last summer I set up a table at an event called Arts in the Park, which as you probably guessed is a place where local artists of all kinds show off their work and sell it. It’s a big draw every year, and I always meet a lot of readers. This year was my third time at that event. One man, John, had bought a copy of one of my books at the previous Arts in the Park. This year, he returned and bought copies of all my other books!

Selling books at Arts in the Park,

Another highlight was meeting French artist Marc Laisne and his friend, Angel Tiah. It was a hot and very sunny day, and I was so glad to be able to enjoy the shade from their umbrella over their stand beside mine.

Marc’s art helped draw more people toward my booth, especially when he started painting a picture from scratch on a canvas more than a metre wide. I’m sure it contributed to my book sales at the event.

Later last summer, I had a book signing event at a downtown bookstore, Prospero The Book Seller. That was a lot of fun, because I spoke with readers about the stories and background of my books, which led to other conversations.

I also had a great time talking with the manager, Sarah Power, about books, readers and the industry.

Last summer, I exhibited a number of times at the ByWard Market in Ottawa, alongside other authors as well as vendors of clothing, fruit and vegetables. During Frosh Week, freshmen students from Carleton University came by on a scavenger hunt and helped promote my latest book at the time, Wildfire.

What readers like you can do

Writing and reading are solitary acts. So the opportunity to actually interact with other people, to talk about books and stories, is a real treat for me.

What’s better is finding out what readers like to read, what they don’t, and what might make them pick up a book and open it.

So get out there, readers. Visit your favorite bookstore, and when you see someone proudly, or nervously showing off the books they wrote, come over and say hi. That doesn’t obligate you to buy a book. But sharing a conversation with a writer can bring more interested potential readers over to find out more, which could spur more sales.

And it’s a great way to find out about new books and writers you just might enjoy reading. You might find someone who would be thrilled to talk to your book club.

Marc Laisne and Angel Tiah set up a lifesaving umbrella right behind my table.

As I write this, on July 16, 2019, I am getting ready for my next event, a book signing at Prospero The Book Company on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. I’m hoping it goes well, but so far all the events I’ve attended at actual bookstores have gone well. I’ve never done a midweek event, though. The manager promises that mid-weekday is when this downtown location gets the most traffic, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my previous, successful events.

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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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Hit the Road, write a book

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Travel and writing series

Traveling puts you face to face with people and lifestyles you otherwise would never see or experience.

By M.L. Doyle

In 1996, I’d been in the Army Reserve about fifteen years when my unit was deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina for the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission. We were a small unit of public affairs journalists, broadcasters and media relations specialists and we had zero idea of what we’d be facing. It was both exciting and frightening.

Roll calls, early wake ups, long bus rides, briefings and more briefings. It was a very long road to get us from Minnesota to Bosnia, and the minute I stepped out of the Humvee at McGovern Base, a forward camp located just outside the city of Brcko, I knew I’d have to write about it all someday. More than ten years later, I finally sat down to use Bosnia as the backdrop for my first Master Sergeant Harper mystery, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

My time in uniform and working for the Army as a civilian means I’ve traveled a lot, providing plenty of fodder for fiction.

Once I started writing, it was easy to remember the people, the sounds and smells, the living conditions, the food, the controversies and rumors. There was plenty of fodder for a good military themed mystery in that war-torn place, and I used as much of it as I could.

Prior to deploying to Bosnia, my reserve unit had traveled to a lot of far-flung places. We’d gone to Thailand, where I met a team of Special Forces soldiers. A crew chief harnessed me to a spot right next to the rear door of the C130 we piled into. At fifteen thousand feet, the rear of the plane opened and I moved out to the farthest point the harness would allow so I could take pictures as the SF team rushed out the opening in a free fall HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) jump.

On that same trip, I’d gone to a tiny little village where an army vet told me the story of how he’d been walking from village to village in 90 degree heat, vaccinating oxen and goats. With a smile on his face, he told me he’d had to stick his plastic-encased arm up to his shoulder into the ass of an elephant to investigate some digestive issue. “You don’t get to do that every day,” he’d said.

My work as an Army Broadcaster and my deployment to Bosnia were the backdrops for my mystery series, beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

On December 20, 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama. My reserve unit had been scheduled to go to Panama for training in February, 1990, so when we arrived, there were still bullet-pockmarked buildings and burned out cars scattered along the roads. I’ll never forget the scorch marks and signs of utter carnage. That trip was the first time I’d seen the aftermath of war. It wouldn’t be the last.

On another trip, I went to Guatemala’s Soto Cano Airbase and from there, traveled around doing stories about what soldiers were doing in the Central American country. I decided to tell the soldier’s stories by at least trying to do what they were doing, to get my hands dirty a bit. So, I ran a rock crusher, picked up and emptied a bulldozer bucket of rocks. I lay cement blocks for the foundation of a school, dosed a few cows and horses with de-worming medication and gave vaccinations to a couple of kids. One of the military dentists asked me if I wanted to pull a tooth. I said no thanks to that.

During our trip to Honduras the troops did much of the same kinds of missions, but the mountain villages were much harder to reach and the small villages felt isolated and cut off from the world. That trip was the basis of the second book in my mystery series, The Sapper’s Plot.

As a civilian working for the Army, I spent week after week in Hohenfels, Germany, a massive training area in Bavaria. The mock towns, miles and miles of dirt roads and live fire ranges were the basis of my third book, The General’s Ambition.

The Ziggurat behind me was the inspiration for the Desert Goddess series and the books The Bonding Spell and The Bonding Blade.

Shortly after the start of the Iraq War, I was assigned a mission to go to Baghdad from Germany on the occasion of the change of command from one general officer to another. I decided to take advantage of the assignment by flying into Kuwait and convoying from there to Baghdad as a chance to shoot video and capture stories along the way. It took two days to get from Kuwait to Baghdad. Along the way, we stopped at an ancient Mesopotamian town called Ur. The Ziggurat in Ur and the streets of Baghdad were the basis of my urban fantasy series, beginning with The Bonding Spell.

Additionally, the trip between Kuwait and Baghdad helped me greatly when I co-authored Shoshana Johnson’s memoir. The stories she told me of the ambush her unit encountered, and the days she was held as a POW, were so vivid and easy for me to describe because I had been there, walked the sand, driven the roads, spoken to the people and knew at least the basics of what she saw. Her book, I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home, benefited from our shared experiences both from having been in those places and from being black women who had served in Army uniforms.

I haven’t written a book about my time in Thailand, but I’ve used bits and pieces of that trip to color other stories. And so far, I haven’t based a story in Guatemala or Panama, but I’ve taken some of what I saw in those places and woven them into other narratives. There are plenty of other countries, military bases and experiences that could be imagination-fueling fodder for a good story. I’ve barely tapped into the places I’ve visited on vacation or any of the stateside duty locations I’ve spent time in.

Without doubt, location plays a big role in how and what I write. I’ve always enjoyed learning about new places, interesting careers and unusual spots in the books I read. Where the story takes place is the backbone which leads to how the story will unfold.

For example, the third book in my Desert Goddess series will have some bits that take place in modern-day Iraq, something I’ve not done with any of the other books. The next Master Sergeant Harper mystery is probably going to take place at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I haven’t figured out the plot yet, but I know where the mystery will take place because of the different missions that take place on that installation. And a new novella series I’m working on may very well take place in the DMV – the D.C., Maryland and Virginia corridor where so many military bases and federal agencies are located. Yes, I know it’s a common place for a thriller style story, but it’s also the seat of the nation’s power and the Pentagon. Plus, I know the area and for this particular new series, it’s a perfect setting, at least for a start.

For me, location, location, location is more than just a mantra for buying property. It’s also an important character in my storytelling.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

Unafraid of genre jumping, Mary has co-authored two memoirs, a three-book mystery series, a four-novella erotic romance series, and has just published the first book in a planned urban fantasy series.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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