Czech Mate – early moves

 

Any creative writer who is honest will admit that it would be nice to make it big, but while we wait for a movie producer to call – we continue to work, honing our craft.

Blog posts made by our fraternity are wide-ranging. Depending on how things are going with the Work in Progress (WIP), it could be a post about how the previous book is selling (or not), ideas for the new one, a review on somebody’s book, or many other topics.

If it’s a promotion, it might be shouting about the latest idea, or trying to push it when the work is done, and it’s available. I thought it would make a change to talk about a new novel in those introductory stages of its life.

 

How did I come up with the idea for my latest?

This is the year I retire, and our son, Andrew, (who lives in Amsterdam), got in touch a few months ago and suggested that we had a father and son reunion to celebrate my special year. We’ve both seen a lot of Europe, although he’s seen more than me. I was delighted when he said Prague was our destination for a four-day stay. I decided I’d write a story using the Czech capital as a backdrop.

Within twenty-four hours (and an early morning cycle ride), I had considered romance or thriller and had a basic idea for my plot.

What came next?

It took less than two days before I had my working title, Czech Mate, and I began creating my main character, a Scottish artist called Bryce. As my morning cycle rides were conducted each day I considered locations, action sequences, other characters, and crucially who were the good guys and the bad guys.

I dedicate a notebook to each of my projects and this one was no different. When I went shopping with my wife, or we went somewhere for a day out, my Czech Mate notebook went too. I listed names, ages, nationalities, and a few personal details for each new character.

What about research?

Google is good, but, in mid-September I flew from the north of England to Prague in the Czech Republic, to meet Andrew, who had flown from Amsterdam.

Andrew is a keen photographer with an eye for detail, so when he was setting up his tripod, I had ample opportunity to take pictures, make notes, and gain a ‘feel’ for my surroundings.

To us, streets, restaurants, pubs, theatres, galleries, churches and regular tourist attractions are not simply places of interest, they are ‘subjects’, or ‘locations’. For four days we were both able to indulge in our chosen passions.

Prior to the trip, I spent hours reading up on the history of the Czech Republic and had several pages of notes on people, places, and political events.

How did I follow up my great trip?

Since my return, I’ve written four thousand words, invented a few action sequences, and worked out who is good, bad, or on the fence. A few locations will be in the UK which will help to balance the story.

What about character detail and development?

I’m presently filling out my characters’ details as I let the early part of the story rest. Each person will have a date of birth, a physical appearance, a profession, an allegiance, a background, and certain skills. No, not all detail will be brought into the story, but it’s important to create a rounded character in the author’s mind which helps to develop the character for their part.

When will the story be published?

I aim to have the basic storyline completed by end December 2017. Like all my projects, it will be printed and left aside for three weeks, or perhaps a month. During that time I’ll work on something else. There are three main projects in my stable at present which is healthy, because they will each be allowed at least three weeks between drafts.

At present, I’d like to see Czech Mate being published in the spring of 2018.

As always, thank you for taking an interest in my work and my words. All feedback is welcome.

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A Stage further …

 

Yes, I’m a happy man. I’m filled with a sense of achievement as I compose this post. This is not something about which I’d normally boast, but hey, it’s special.

As I reach this point in my life I have already put a sequence in place for my monthly freebies on Amazon.

It’s only three weeks until I give up my retail job, and one week later I’m officially retired. The act of retirement is a conclusion of sorts, and my other achievements are also conclusions in their own way.

Some time ago I suggested I’d try to write a sequel, which was done and then followed by a series. This of course refers to Beyond The Law, the trilogy.

I have over the years insterspersed my other other writing with a long-term project. My factual autobiography and military memoirs was fraught with issues when I first wrote it – apart from the standard of the writing.

Now, with reasonable writing experience and success, I’ve completed my five book series, A Life of Choice. The fifth book is not due publication until November, because I would like to use completion of the series to celebrate the 48th year since I signed up to join the British Army.

I tried my hand at erotica in short story format, moved on to novel, and following success with both, I recently completed a series of five novellas. Highland Games is the result.

My September give-away was the first in my Beyond The Law trilogy, and with three months to the end of the year, I’m giving away books with connections.

Over the next three months, on two occasions the weekend freebie will be the first in a series, and the remaining weekend freebie will be a pair of books which complement each other.

Military Matters is a book of poetry which contains 80 verses which reflect aspects of life in military uniform. This book will be accompanied by A Time for Courage: and other military stories. In an attempt to avoid any hitches they will be offered separately, but over the same few days.

At the end of this year I will be terminating my monthly, freebie weekend. If you haven’t yet sampled my work, this is a good time to try a variety for free.

As we come into the final three months of the year it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have three WIP. Two of the new stories are thrillers, Czech Mate, and  Codename: Nightshade. The third is erotica, Curious and Camping. All three books will be published in 2018.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words and taking an interest.

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When Two Worlds Collide

 

The final part of the tale has yet to be published, but the end of the series is written. I’m pleased to report that I’m now in the editing stages. I will edit, leave to rest, and edit again. The sequence will continue over the next two months, but my aim is to publish by early November.

Why publish in early November?

As I’ve drawn on the experiences I gained over a 23-year military career, I’ve enjoyed reliving many conversations and situations. I’ve recalled men who have passed on, to that big army in the sky, or wherever it may be. Some of those guys were taken too early, while I’m pleased to say, others lived beyond what was a regular life.

I’m rapidly approaching my 65th birthday (early November), which means I’ll have been out of the military for 25 years. If I use November as my target for publication it will be the 48th-anniversary of when I joined the army and will be a celebration of a story I’ve already researched and have been writing for several years.

Many of my memories of those days are enjoyable and as clear as yesterday.

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Why was this an important project for me?

There are a few reasons for writing a story such as A Life of Choice. As I’ve said in interviews and in previous posts, there are hundreds of books out there which relate directly to a modern conflict and real soldiers. Life and death coexist, and graphic photography removes any doubts.

Yes, in any military story there are plenty of facts and the scenes are laced with an abundance of emotions. Having written this tale several times, I aimed to inject as much humour as possible, while maintaining the thread of the protagonist’s life and career.

Is there anything else to be done apart from editing?

I’ve decided to pay for a professional cover design for the series. I created the present covers myself using the corps colours of the Royal Signals, but when the fifth book is established, I’d like to give the series the best possible chance of appealing to a wide audience, which means eye-catching covers.

Will the series only appeal to serving or ex-Service personnel?

I’m pleased to say that from the reviews I’ve seen so far, the answer is no, which is what I aimed for from the outset. This has never been a series purely to feed the memory of old soldiers (male or female), although I’m sure many would enjoy the tale. To some readers, there might be too much detail in certain areas, but my aim throughout is to create a credible backdrop.

Imagine a life without computers or mobile phones, and when airports didn’t cater for several languages on their notices. In Part One, the miniskirt was still a statement fashion and cars didn’t come with a radio as standard. A pint of beer and a 20-pack of cigarettes would have cost … well, I’m not going there, because some of you wouldn’t believe me.

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To put it all in perspective, it is the tale of a young man who left school at 15, and at 17 was venturing into the unknown. For those who have served, it may bring back memories, and for those who considered serving, but did not, it may answer questions. For those who never contemplated military service, it will provide insight.

All of the links to Amazon or BookLinker are available at my author website on the Anthologies page:

http://www.tombensonauthor.com/anthologies/4591486548

Go on, take a look …

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My Study – 2017

When the present year became a reality so too did several personal targets. As I tend to do, I had my year planner created, complete with weekends highlighted. A crucial difference to any other year was the month of October, when I’d retire from regular work.

I had considered changing from my PC to a Mac. As with all things I’d heard the positives and negatives for both systems which meant I had a lot of research to do before making such a big leap. Whatever I decided would affect my writing production.

It was my wife, Olive who suggested I should treat myself to a new look for my study. On several occasions after the idea was put to me, while working on a project I’d stop typing and stare at the wall in front of me.

We agreed it was affordable and settled on June as the month to do the makeover. I made a twenty-point plan and gave myself provisional dates for the individual phases. I’d be hoping to keep up with my writing with the exception of perhaps a couple of key days, like when the room was empty for redecoration, and assembling new furniture.

Yes, within the red boxes and behind the white doors is organisation.

Now in the first week of July the main task is completed. In the near future I’ll add a potted plant or two, but I’m now ready to learn how to use my Mac – and I’m eager to be writing again.

January 2017 saw minor adjustments …

I took a few ‘before’ pictures and ‘after’ pictures but I believe it only needs one to demonstrate that the effort to make the changes was worthwhile.

June 2017 saw a major makeover …

Until I sat here with my Mac at my new, larger desk in the centre of the room I didn’t realise how trapped I must have felt previously.

 

 

 

The stage is set to get back to work, so what lies ahead in my personal targets for the year?
I have the final edits to perform on Highland games – 4 before publication. By the end of this year I propose to publish Highland Games – 5 and A Life of Choice: Part Five, and both books are at an advanced stage.

 

 

My next novel is underway and will continue to be developed over the coming months. However automated, updated and organised my desk feels, I enjoy the comfort of a notice board which keeps me in control.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and for any comments or feedback you may leave.

 

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A Life of Choice: Part Four – available

 

 

The penultimate volume about Jim Faulkner pursuing a career in khaki, and all the trials and tribulations which befall him along the way.

Have you been following Jim’s progress?

In Part One, Innocence and Inebriation, 17-year-old Jim Faulkner leaves home to offer himself to the service of his country.

Part Two, Paths and Progression, our young man finds himself on a rollercoaster ride of education – in life.

When we arrive in Part Three, On and Off the Rails, Jim has volunteered to work in a scenario where variety is a way of life, mainly when at work.

In Part Four, Onwards and Upwards, life has altered so much, but any improvements have been earned using the experiences of what has gone before.

The final episode of Jim’s story is due for publication in late summer/early autumn 2017.

If I were to ask two small favours of my readers, I would ask that you work through the series in order, and please consider leaving reviews, however short.

Thank you, on behalf of Jim.

MEET TOM BENSON

My thanks to Lucinda for this wonderful feature …

lucinda E Clarke

This week’s writer is one I am really happy to introduce. Firstly, he helped me set up my web page (no, not true, he set it up for me – I’m clueless) and we read each other’s books way, way back when I was still new to social media. He held my hand every step of the way.

tom bensonThe book Tom’s chosen to showcase in this guest blog is one I’ve read and I liked it so much that I bought the second in the series as well. Having been married twice to men who have also served in the forces, it was like getting a peep into what really goes on behind the scenes ‘among the boys’. Girls get curious about these things you know.

A Life of Choice   West Germany   April 1992

“Thanks, mate,” I said, accepting a bottle of beer from one of my soldiers.

View original post 405 more words

Kindle, or Kobo?

The aim of this piece is to look at the two systems as a writer, and not a reader.

Why?

When it comes to eReaders there is a wide choice, and the prices reflect that choice.

As a writer, I first published with Smashwords, but apart from learning a lot about formatting, and how difficult it was to be paid for my sales … well, let’s not go there.

I moved on to Amazon and tried the KDP route. It took an hour to read the Terms and Conditions, but at least I knew where I stood by the time it came to ticking, or un-ticking little boxes.

Sales were reported, and hey, I was paid regularly. I continued to publish my work through Amazon, and when it was offered, I ventured into the KDP Select programme to gain from the many benefits offered … yeah, whatever.

Having spent many months with Amazon, I published three titles with Kobo, believing that with the big advertising campaign in the UK, it had to be a winner. Perhaps I was the only person in the country seeing the ads, or my work didn’t appeal to anybody with a Kobo.

Three months later I dropped my titles and put all my eggs in the Amazon basket, and topped off the basket by also placing them on the KDP Select listing.

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Three years have passed, and I’ve commenced building a portfolio with Kobo. If you’re familiar with KDP Select you will know there is a 90-day exclusivity clause involved. All of my titles were ‘locked-in’, but now as they are available I am publishing in both Amazon and Kobo, but not in any of the select programmes.

What has changed?

Kobo has improved, having ironed out many of the issues which existed three years ago, and now I find myself with twenty-plus titles, many of which sell regularly. I’m confident in my work, and I’m giving Kobo a six-month trial with a selection of my titles. Later in this post I’ll explain which are being left out of the equation, and why.

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If you’re a writer and you didn’t already know, Kindle and Kobo both have an exclusive loyalty programme to which you can assign your titles.

Kindle has the KDP Select:

1 – Earn higher royalties from *Kindle Unlimited and *Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, plus 70% royalties when your titles are bought in a handful of selected countries.

*Both programmes are subscription based for those who are reading the books.

2 – Use of two promotional tools (Kindle Countdown, or Free Book).

Kobo Writing Life has the Kobo Plus programme.

Kobo Plus equates roughly to KDP Select, in that the author is paid if a title is borrowed by a subscriber to the programme.

On the author side of Kobo I’ve found plenty of services. The distribution for Kobo published material is wider across the globe without having to enter into any ‘exclusive’ programme.

Kobo appears to concentrate the ‘loyalty/reward’ aspect of the business on the readers, which is fine, because those of us who write and self-publish are (or should be) readers.

If you should know differently on any of the aforementioned, please let me know.

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Tom Benson – Amazon Author Page              Tom Benson on Kobo

I’m watching closely for the first month as I select and publish titles with Kobo, and if I see sales, I’ll add more titles. When I have most of my titles in both camps, I’ll monitor sales until end October 2017.

I will not be publishing my erotica titles with Kobo due to their strict guidelines, and I’d prefer not to get into a legal tangle because I disagreed with their opinion of what is, or isn’t erotica.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

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Can You Resist ‘Temptation’?

 

‘I can resist everything except temptation,’ is one of my favourite quotes by the talented Oscar Wilde. The Irish essayist, poet and novelist produced many memorable quotes.

Temptation is one of those wide-ranging areas in life. Whether we go back to Adam and Eve, or consider a multi-million dollar robbery, we are reminded of temptation.

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In this, my latest collection of short stories I’ve employed temptation as a core theme. In a couple of the stories it may be obscure. The tale may be dealing with an imminent allure, or the after effects. The final decision does not always follow the enticement, which is where I considered true entertainment would be found.

 

I’ve diversified as I usually do with the plots, by using a mixture of genre for the stories. I have featured vengeance, thriller, horror, romance, paranormal, sci-fi, contemporary, and sizzling romance (not erotica).

I’m a keen reader of short stories, and I derive tremendous pleasure from building a mini-world for characters who must come alive for their brief shot at fame.

Amazon – Preview/Buy                   BookLinker – Universal

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On the subject of choices, I am like many writers, in that I am always on the lookout for another platform. On Facebook for example, I originally had a personal page, and after a long settling in period, I started an author’s page. Last year, I set up separate pages for Short Stories, Erotica, Poetry, and kept my original author page; Tom Benson – Writer.

tb-writer-fb

Click for Facebook page

Following a post by Val Tobin, who constantly produces great content for authors in her entries on Facebook, I took the plunge and set up an inter-active ‘shop on my author page.

Facebook suggests it takes about fifteen minutes to set up. Well, I don’t know what they were setting up, but by the time I got my head around the project and uploaded my titles and links, I’d used about three hours. The good news – the idea is working.

I left it for a day to recover from the titles/links overload and have now gone back to install ‘shops’ in my other three writing-related Facebook pages.

I’ll write a post on this idea soon if I see an upsurge in sales, although it would be nice to think any upsurge was purely because the books were so popular. I know, I know …. 😀

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.

Beyond The Law – The Trilogy

The trilogy is completed with the publication of Beyond The Law: Consequences.

My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.

Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.

In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.BTL Retribution

It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.

As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesUntil I read feedback on Beyond The Law: Consequences I will suffer a long wait.

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Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.

Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.

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As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.

Tom

Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.