Getting inspired in uninspiring times

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Monday musings by the bestselling

by Raine Thomas

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

The world is changing moment by moment, but if you’re like me and still homebound due to COVID-19, you might feel like every day is the same. I’ve begun to understand with far too much clarity why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day slowly lost his mind. This repetitive lifestyle can be stifling!

For a writer, inspiration is critical. It’s what helps us sit in front of our computers for hours on end writing stories and developing characters. When those creative juices aren’t flowing, the work comes to a grinding halt. So how does one find inspiration in the uninspiring?

The great news is that most of us have access to inspiration everywhere, even within the confines of our homes. We can find it within the pages of books and magazines, while listening to the lyrics of the latest hits on the radio, by engaging in conversations with our family members and friends, and scrolling through social media. We can even open our windows and look outside for a change—unless, like me, you live in Florida where it rains nearly every day between May and November.

I, of course, have to mention movies and television as sources of inspiration. I’ve been researching sports and athletes for future story ideas, but with all professional sports currently on a COVID hiatus, I’ve had to get creative to find the inspiration I need. Hello, YouTube! Amidst my family’s constant eye-rolling, I’ve watched hours of sports highlights and fails over the past couple months.

Sometimes, we can even find inspiration within ourselves. My upcoming release, For the Win, is a baseball romance. I started the basic outline of the book years ago. Even the book cover has been done for a couple years, just waiting for inspiration to strike. My other writing projects ended up taking precedence, however.

Until COVID hit.

It seems having my hours cut in my full-time event planning job finally gave me the kickstart to write this story. It was like the characters woke up from a deep sleep and all started talking to me at once. I finished the first draft in five weeks, and with all humility aside, it’s already become one of my favorite books I’ve ever written. The beta feedback has been incredible! It makes me wonder why it took so long for that inspiration to strike.

My advice? If you’re struggling to find inspiration through some of the ways I mentioned above, dig through your archives. You’re bound to have first drafts of projects you started and never finished. Dust them off, give them a review, and see if one of them finally speak to you. You might have a future hit on your hands!

These times are unpredictable, my friends. Let’s use that to our advantage. Find inspiration wherever you can and use it to make some magic in this crazy world of ours!

Raine Thomas

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Get to know Raine on her

And follow her on Twitter @Raine_Thomas.

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Interesting times

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Monday musings

Photo by Jack Hunter on Unsplash

By Scott Bury

“May you live in interesting times” is often identified as a curse. And while the current time is fraught with fear, division, violence and illness, it’s also interesting.

Not to belittle or dismiss the seriousness of the crises affecting people. The hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world, the millions of cases of covdid-19 and other illnesses, the violence and fear felt in cities across the U.S. and other countries.

Not to mention the tens of millions of people, men, women and children living as refugees around the world. People living in war zones, people working in unsafe mines and fields and factories. 

Crises have a way of putting stresses under a magnifying glass, of making strengths and flaws more apparent. 

But these times are also interesting because it’s clear our society is at a crossroads, a point of choosing a path. 

Maybe it’s more like flocks of birds that somehow maintain cohesion as a group, while each member is flying its own path. Each one responds to its own perception of threat and opportunity and the wish to remain a part of its group.

From YouTube

People don’t act much different from this. Each of us choices each of us make in response to threat and opportunity, and our desire to be part of a group. 

The question: How will this look from the future?

What we historians make of this time?

How will fiction writers describe it?

Will the novel coronavirus pandemic bring long-term changes in social behavior and norms?

From a more light-hearted perspective, will it change romance writing? Will masks become seen as a normal part of human interaction? Will deciding to get closer than two metres/six feet become a regular part of a developing relationship? 

On the political side, will the coming days see people choosing the path of reconciliation and unity, or deeper divisions?

Too soon to tell

It’s impossible to write meaningfully about the direction of shifts in society and politics from the middle of it. 

But journalists do write meaningful analyses from the midst of crises. Here are just a few examples:

  • Jack Reed’s Ten Days the Shook the World written during the Russian Revolution of 1917
  • Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column written while he was covering the Spanish Civil War Michael Maclear’s The Ten Thousand Day War about Vietnam 
  • George Packer’s The Assassins Gate about the Iraq War, written in 2005

The list goes on. 

Still, we will need some perspective to know which path society chooses. There will doubtless be some elements on both paths. And we won’t know for some time which will prevail. 

And no doubt, these books, fiction and non-fiction, will be interesting.

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, a pesky cat 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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Pandemic tales

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Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

Monday musings by bestselling authors

Hopefully, we will soon live in post-pandemic world. But we all know that everything has changed. So much of what we once thought of as “normal” is now over and done.

How will this affect the stories and books we love to read? BestSelling Reads authors weigh in on how the Covid-19 pandemic will influence their writing in the future.

Scott Bury, mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, biography

Scott Bury

I anticipate writing about situations where isolation and physical distancing will be story elements. Relationships and gatherings will be changed. At least, there will be a current of concern about risks. At the very least, a character will have to think a second and a third time before getting close to a stranger, starting a new relationship, or before tackling a bad guy.

David C. Cassidy

David C. Cassidy, horror

I’ve actually given this a lot of thought as I work on my current book. If we find we’re living in a post-Covid world where masks are the norm, do we need to mirror that in our stories? I think it’s a personal choice for every writer or director.

Of course, we’d all like to write “realistic” stories that reflect reality, but for me, I’m going to write as if masks aren’t the norm. If that’s not depicting reality, I can live with that. I think readers will, too, and most, if not all, would prefer it that way. They want us to give them an escape from the everyday, not a dose of ugly reality, especially when it comes to entertainment.

Raine Thomas, new adult, young adult and romance

Raine Thomas

I’m with David on this topic. I write fiction (and romantic fiction, at that). My readers want to escape from their everyday realities, so I don’t intend to write about a world in the grips of a pandemic where my characters have to wear masks and stay six feet apart. That said, I do feel this experience will change how many authors develop future projects.

Alan McDermott

Alan McDermott, action-thrillers

I don’t plan to include Covid-19 in any of my future works. My books have imaginary presidents in alternate reality timelines, so no need to drag this up again. I’m sure people will be sick of reading about it by the time it’s over. As for what life will be like, I think everyone will get pretty much back to normal before too long. I’d like to think there would be major changes, like a higher minimum wage to reflect on the importance of ‘menial’ jobs that are keeping the country going, but I doubt that will happen.

DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden: romance, mystery, fantasy

I think the biggest changes for my personal writing will be on the marketing side and focusing on engaging with readers online. It’s something I’ve slacked on the past few years, and being stuck at home has reminded me of how important having that community is.

As far as writing about situations reflecting the lockdown, I’ve already seen a few “love in lockdown” type books pop up, but I think portrayals will focus mainly on business and activities and less so on relationships. We all still need to connect, and physical contact is a huge part of that.

I do think a lot of people and businesses are realizing the benefits of teleworking and virtual events, though, so I think that will be featured in fiction more often now.

J.L. Oakley

J.L. Oakley, historical fiction, cozy mysteries

I agree with what’s been said. I write historical fiction and cozy mysteries. I could fix those four cozy mysteries.

Sometimes there is hard stuff in the stories as part of the action—my WWII in particular—but I won’t be writing about mask. I always say that I write about characters who stand up for something in their own times, whether its resistance in WWII, women going against the norm and climbing mountains, or being present in multi-cultured pacific NW in the 1860s.

I plan to write a sequel to Tree Soldier showing women in the Forest Service during the war. I am looking for different ways to reach readers. Doing a Zoom talk to the Sons of Norway Lodge with Powerpoint has shown me a way to connect. There was even a member in Nord Kapp, Norway.

Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods, mystery, thriller, comic thriller

Interesting question, and some interesting answers. I write crime novels to escape reality, and I think that’s what most readers are looking for: an escape.

At least in the near term, I don’t think the good (and bad) folks of Forney County will have to deal with masks or social distancing. As the death toll from Covid-19 grows more personal, the topic is too raw. However, a virus-ridden world could make things interesting from the perspective of crimes committed and how they’re solved. We’ll just have to see how the stories unfold.

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

There are times when you don’t know what the future holds. My parents experienced that in WWII. My father was a submariner in the North Atlantic, chasing U Boats, seeking to avoid depth charges launched by German destroyers. My mother served in Air Raid Protection (ARP), driving an ambulance during air raid attacks on Birmingham, UK. They had no idea how that war would end: in success and democracy, or failure under a Nazi dictatorship.

My generation has been blessed up till now. We’ve never known a time when we’ve had to face existential uncertainty of that order. Our problems and heartaches have been strictly second order. Until now.

The road ahead is at a junction. And we face the kind of existential uncertainty my parents and many generations before them faced. One road leads to a successful vaccine. Then our blessed lives will return and return quite quickly. The other road leads to a world where we will need to live in the shadow of Covid-19, making changes to how we live and relate to each other with far reaching outcomes that will affect how we write as much as everything else. Until we know which fork in the road we will take my art continues as before.

If the outcome is long-term containment of the virus, I’m sure my art will change along with so much else in what we’ve been able to take for granted up till now.

What do readers think?

Do you want to see the pandemic reflected in stories and novels in the future? In mysteries, science-fiction or romance tales? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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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.

BestSelling Reads author page    |      Website   |     Facebook     |     Google+     |     LinkedIn     |     Twitter     |     Instagram    |      Amazon Author page

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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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