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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How does gravity work? Where do ideas come from?

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Monday musings on the elusive source of inspiration by award-winning bestseller

David C. Cassidy

The original image and the final cover for The Dark

Where do my ideas come from? It’s a question I’ve been asked more than once. The truth is, it’s like asking, “How does gravity work?” Who the hell knows.

As a writer, I can say that my ideas—some of the best of them—come to me when I least expect it. Almost without fail, they strike when I’m not writing. And that’s often when I’m outdoors making photographs. In other words, the Idea Train is running in the background, when suddenly, the horn blows, the smoke clears, and wham, there it is: The Idea.

Photo by Giuseppe Ruco on Unsplash

To wit: At the time I was trying to come up with a book cover for my award-winning horror novel, The Dark—I create my own book covers, as well as for other authors—I was out with my camera in a graveyard. It was getting close to sunset, and the sky was awash in red. It was as if the sky was filled with blood, even on fire. I made a dramatic image using three simple elements: the fiery sky, the glowing sun, and a silhouette of a scraggly, menacing tree. And at that moment, it inspired the eventual cover for The Dark. Spoiler: the story’s darkness and evil surround a mysterious and frightening oak.

So, how does gravity work, anyway? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’m just glad it keeps the pepperoni on my pizza … and that the Idea Train keeps rolling.

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.

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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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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

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Chromatic Typewriter created by Tyree Callahan

Monday musings by bestselling author

DelSheree Gladden

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

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

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

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

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

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

DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden

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

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

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

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

And find her on social media

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Why 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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