My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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Producing an Anthology

 

Have you ever considered producing an anthology of short stories?

Perhaps you’ve written short stories and never considered creating a collection, or you’re a novelist who shuns the short story discipline to concentrate on longer work.

My first anthology was a project, a challenge, a dream, and a nightmare all before it became a reality.

I’d written numerous short stories and won competitions, but Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories was my first foray into compiling an anthology. Should I aim for a theme or go multi-genre? Is it best to go with a complete set of original work or include something which has been commended? Go it alone or ask other people to donate a story?

The questions pile up about ten seconds after the decision to tackle such a project.

I’m pleased to report that stories from that first collection are still referred to in reviews, which is heartwarming. It is also a testament to the credibility of the stories and justifies their inclusion. I’ve now compiled seven anthologies including The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories created by inviting other authors to join me.

When I compiled ‘The Welcome’ it was never about earning money, it was always intended as a platform for fellow authors from the IASD and me to get examples of our work out there. No, the collection hasn’t made me a millionaire although the book continues to sell the occasional copy. Thanks to Amazon’s peculiar attitude to customers spending a set amount of money before being allowed to comment, there are now fewer reviews being posted.

I suppose I should come clean and admit that if you’re a multi-genre author like me there is a constant need to work on a new anthology. If writing short stories appeals to you then the next logical step must be producing a range of your work instead of keeping it aside waiting for the opportunity a competition offers.

Would you prefer to keep all the stories in one genre, or might you find it easier to mix the genre?

The two main routes to go are theme-based or genre-based, and then, of course, you can go it alone or invite work from others. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to hone your writing skills.

I enjoy reading and writing short stories. In the Resources section of my blog, apart from tips on the discipline of Writing a Short Story and Competition Writing I have sections regarding anthologies, Creating an Anthology, and Theme or Genre-based?

The key, as with all writing projects is the desire to take on the mission.

If you are more inclined to work on novels, you’ll appreciate that your manuscript needs some downtime, and one of the most useful ways of dealing with this I’ve found is to work on a couple of short stories. Sometimes the distraction produces further inspiration for the novel.

Have you considered inviting fellow authors to join you in creating a collection?

If you have a favourite genre or theme you could create a collection of your short stories or use yours as a base and mix in stories donated by other authors. You are in control.

When you get right down to it, you are practising your writing craft by producing short stories so why not take that next step and build up a few and make them the ‘chapters’ of your first anthology.

I dare you—you’ll be hooked.

My next anthology, due publication in 2020, starts with a factual story, so once again, another twist. The aim for me is to produce a collection of twelve original tales supplemented by three ‘bonus’ stories which are selected from my other anthologies. This creates value for the reader and provides a platform for the other work by the author.

 

Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, comments are welcomed.

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Katya Cumming – interviewed

 

My interview with erotica author, Katya Cumming, has been promised for some time, so with great pleasure, I’d like to introduce you to the new girl on the (writing) block.

Q1. Katya, I respect your decision not to provide a profile picture because of certain types of people. Would you be kind enough to give us a brief description of yourself and your background?

Two descriptions attributed to me have been curvaceous and statuesque, and I like both. I’m a thirty-something brunette from Edinburgh, Scotland, who works in fashion retail. Relationships are for those involved, so that’s where mine will stay. In my quieter moments, I read and write, and sometimes those things are done while I travel which I also enjoy. To keep in shape I swim, jog, cycle, and do aerobics.

Q2. What type of books did you read when you were younger?

While very young I loved adventure stories, but by the time I was a teenager, I’d progressed to romance. It was while babysitting for a neighbour I first discovered books with more interesting topics. The first erotica book I read was sci-fi, but it just made it more fun for me, imagining the things the aliens could do with the human body. It captured my imagination.

Q3. What attracted you to writing erotica rather than any other genre?

I was a fan of romance, but I needed more grit, and moved up to steamy romance. It didn’t take long before curiosity got the better of me and erotica was next. A couple of authors were okay, but most stories were more like plot-starved, sexual fantasy than erotica, so I decided to try my hand … if you’ll pardon the pun.

Q4. How long did you write before publishing?

In terms of time, probably about two years. I’d written some poetry and short stories which were well-received in writing groups, but novels are a different discipline and frightening at first. Over quite a long time I produced the early stages of three novels but I left them aside, adding to them occasionally.

Q5.  How long does it take generally from starting a story to seeing it published on Amazon?

I would suggest a minimum of four months. Once I have an idea I make a few notes and leave them aside to consider from which start point it might best evolve. I also tend to leave the manuscript aside regularly to let me work on something else. The Mistress, which is my shortest story so far was my quickest first draft. It took me fourteen days and I stopped at fifty-thousand words. I reduced it to forty-seven thousand words.

Q6. How many titles do you have available at the present time?

Now that my latest, ‘His & Hers’ is released, I have five books out there, all on Amazon KU.

Q7. Many authors depend on experience for their subject matter—how much of your work is a direct result of personal experience?

Small segments in different stories is the best answer. This is where the male of the species is different from the female I suppose. A guy who sleeps around for a while is sowing his wild oats and is a bit of a lad, but if a girl plays the field she’s a tart. In my mid-teens, I had two relationships with girls, but by the time I was eighteen, I’d confirmed I enjoyed a roll in the hay with a girl or a guy. I’ve been involved in a threesome twice.

Q8. Feminisation and strong female characters are prominent in your work—could you explain why you lean in this direction?

Sexuality is a deep subject. When you delve into the area of ‘gender-benders’ as they’re so cruelly labelled, there is a myriad of areas to explore. Crossdressing is a multi-layered topic and well-suited to the erotica genre. The why and wherefore create a story. Whatever men tell you, and you should know, if a woman is attractive and dominant it’s more likely to add spice to a sexual encounter, rather than be seen as threatening. What that dominant woman wants, she will get one way or the other. Only a chauvinist or a dyed-in-the-wool alpha male would think otherwise.

Q9. What is your response to those who say that erotica is simply literary porn?

If they’re describing a book which is no more than page after page of explicit sex scenes then I’d agree with them. However, if those explicit sex scenes are integral to and supporting a cohesive story, then it is not porn, it is strong erotica.

Q10. Do you believe there is a place in the market for erotica, and strong erotica in particular?

Yes, of course, or people like us wouldn’t be spending weeks and months developing a story to convey the activities of our characters. I’m an advocate of allowing people the freedom to read whatever they please, and if for example, a person has difficulty forming relationships, has an unsatisfactory sex-life or simply enjoys a bit of titillation, a graphic erotic novel might be a release for them, in a manner of speaking.

Q11. What’s your opinion of those who profess to be erotica authors but produce regular, small volumes of badly-written, graphic sex stories?

First of all, the only way they can be called authors is due to having composed the material. They are not necessarily creative people. A graphic description of sex is not particularly creative in itself. Secondly, many of these people rely on no more than three or four plots, usually involving a cash-strapped person, an experiment, or pure fantasy. There is little or no research and no substance. In my opinion, lazy writers are despicable because they are money-grabbers who also affect the reading public’s view of indie authors who are working hard.

Q12. Who are your favourite indie authors?

You are obviously one, Tom, and that’s not simply because of this interview. I’m also a big fan of Sarah Stuart who writes steamy romance, and Lesley Hayes who is just an incredible writer. For the joy of a true storyteller, I like Patrick ‘Max’ Power, Rebecca Bryn, Lucinda E. Clarke, and Mike Billington. I’m a massive fan of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group; all talented international authors. It’s handy to have something to frighten the pants off me so for that I depend on Anne Francis Scott.

Q13. Which, if any, other genres might you consider writing in the future?

I have a yearning to write something in the sci-fi arena, but I’m not sure yet whether I’d go with dystopian, apocalyptic or outer space.

Q14. Can you tell us about your cover designs and how they came about?

I feel that if not from a scene in a story, the cover should at least highlight one aspect or provide a hint of what lies beyond the title. You know as much about them as I do since you’ve made the effort to produce them for me.

Q15. Why have you avoided being interviewed until this point?

Again this is an area of which you have a good grasp. For your benefit and to aim for credibility, I didn’t think it was fitting to be revealed until I’d produced at least five titles in my name and achieved significant sales. I felt that for a long time I was locked away, waiting. When you decided to bring my work to the fore, create my character, my name, and give me my own website it meant so much to me.

Thank you, Tom, for this interview and for bringing me and my work to the attention of the wider public. I do understand how difficult it has been for you to maintain this secret aspect of your life as an author while you’ve worked on my development.

 

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Thank you for opening up to me, Katya. Please, finish your coffee before you get dressed. It’s been great working hand in glove with you and I look forward to your next in-depth tail … oops, I mean, of course, your next in-depth tale. I’m happy we finally have your personal story out there.

And to all who are interested in Katya’s naughty tales, here are links to her work.

Amazon Author Page

Katya Cumming – Erotica

Coming soon ….

Codename: Nightshade – available

 

A standalone crime thriller produced as a result of the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Yes, we authors can write what we ‘know’, or what we enjoy but at the end of the process, the result must be entertaining. For some authors the task of producing a standalone crime thriller might not sound too daunting, after all, what do you need apart from time (two years in this case), imagination and research where required?

I reread the Beyond The Law trilogy from beginning to end in a week. Yes, I wrote the books, but I still made copious notes. The cast includes friends, allies, enemies and a handful of neutrals, but the body count is important—we can’t have dead people coming back if it isn’t that type of tale.

 

Dare I say, I enjoyed the trilogy and felt justified in the character I singled out for the spotlight.

Rachel Donoghue rapidly developed from being a vehicle thief to covert operative and had the desire to continue improving her skills. In Codename: Nightshade, Rachel proves that not only has she improved as an operative she has leadership skills to offer.

Of course, besides all of those things, she is first and foremost an effective vigilante.

There is no requirement to have read the Beyond The Law trilogy before reading the new story, but perhaps you will afterwards. The original trilogy is available as a box set, therefore saving you money, and allowing the download of three books in one.

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Codename: Nightshade

Amazon Preview/Buy

BookLinker Universal

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My Series’ are boxed off

 

How to attract more readers and give them a reward—that was my quest.

I have individual novels, a trilogy, and a five-part novel. My poetry titles come in the form of a bumper book of serial poetry, my five-part, multi-genre series and, of course, a collection of rhyming erotica.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

Erotica, not usually mentioned on this blog—apart from poetry I have several novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of novellas.

I was looking at an opportunity hidden in plain sight—box sets.

I could offer a series at a cut-price. Yes, it would mean I lose a small amount in royalties from the individual book sales, but providing entertainment to a greater readership is more important to me than the money—which of course would be the spin-off; I know. 😀

Four questions came to mind.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How many people are keen to have a series available in one download?

How many people will take the opportunity of saving about 15-20% on the overall price?

How many of my series should I prepare as box sets?

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How hard would it be to create them, and how long would it take?

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The good news is, the graphics in this post are not simply for show. The first part of the job is done—four box sets completed, although while working on the project it felt like forty. Amendments to front and back matter was tedious, but worthwhile.

In each case, there is at least a free book when comparing prices to individual purchases.

These box sets are available on Kindle Unlimited.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

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I have no intention of going along the audio route so it will be interesting to see if this idea works.

Things got off to a good start with the erotica—a box set sold within three hours of publication.

I’ll write a post giving any useful information if the idea takes off, and in which area/genre.

A Life of Choice is available as five individual eBooks, a box set of five, and as a paperback trilogy.

If you’re new to my brand, all of my eBook titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.

In my meantime, I’ll be happy to accept question, comments and suggestions.

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My Guest Today is Harmony Kent

Don’t be afraid of ‘Fallout’ … check out Harmony Kent.

Sarah Stuart - Romantic Suspense

Hi, everyone. Harmony here. Many thanks to Sarah for hosting me. I have a new book on preorder called FALLOUT, which is a post-apocalyptic dystopia. This novel started out life by playing a little game. I sat and closed my eyes and imagined an empty room … in that room, a vial appeared. A dull orange plastic thing covered in scratches. It sloshed when I shook it. From that tiny beginning, the world of Exxon 1 and its deadly virus was born.

Did John betray Sasha?
Why wouldn’t he take this golden opportunity to get rid of President Terror?
How can she protect herself now?

Click the cover to preorder and get a lovely surprise on August 25th when it downloads.

WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS APART, WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The year is 3040.

The location is Exxon 1, part of a six-planet system in settled space.

Determined to avoid the…

View original post 238 more words

Light at the End

 

The ‘working’ cover

I’ve published short stories in a wide variety of genres, but before tackling a novel I think ‘long and hard’, which I suppose is a reasonable euphemism for writing a novel.

Many authors who write sci-fi, dystopian or apocalyptic naturally populate their world with those creatures with whom we are most well-acquainted—humans. If not human, the characters are invariably a variation of the model. The unbelievable can be found in any genre but, in sci-fi,  dystopian and apocalyptic stories, we as readers must more readily ‘accept’ the author’s word—it has to be convincing.

Apart from reading pretty much anything I also write in a broad spectrum. Although my sci-fi short stories have been well-received, for a long time I’ve wanted to write a novel with a sci-fi/dystopian/apocalyptic flavour. I was afraid of being drawn into a world of unpronounceable equipments, scientific jargon, strange weaponry, beams, time warps and goodness knows what else.

Two writing theories came to mind. ‘Write what you know’ and ‘ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances’. Now, here were two things I could work with in my new venture.

Alternative colour scheme

During my morning cycle rides when my surroundings permit, I let my thoughts wander and over many weeks I dreamt up a situation which involved ‘ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances’. If I’m writing ‘what I know’ then that as always will be down to memory, experience, knowledge and research.

My sci-fi/dystopian/apocalyptic novel has the working title ‘Light at the End’. Like most of my titles, this one carries more than one meaning.

For the benefit of new writers or those who are interested in such things as how an author’s mind works when a new idea is bubbling under the surface, I used my favourite method for building the basics before writing any of the story. It’s a one-man brainstorming session.

– On a regular A4 sheet of paper, I drew a bubble and wrote the title inside.

– From this first point, I drew a line with a bubble on the end and wrote ‘tunnel’.

– From ‘tunnel’ I added several other threads with bubbles on the end—some of these immediately gaining their own extension.

– Back at the central bubble I extended more threads and added topics like ‘nuclear strike’, ‘tourists’, inhabitants’ and so on. Inside about thirty minutes I had thirty extensions from the original bubble—Light at the End.

– I spent twenty minutes listing character names and ‘other considerations’, writing as fast as possible when an idea came to mind. Speed is more beneficial than procrastination when brainstorming, otherwise it becomes braindrizzle. Characters would need names—not descriptions or ages—not yet, but male and female—yes.

I stopped the whole brainstorm session at one hour.

Result?

Forty circles with topics or sub-topics, and a list of forty ‘other considerations’.

While my thoughts were concentrated on the new story idea I had to keep pushing. Next up was another sheet of paper on which I drew a quick sketch of the tunnel and the surrounding countryside. By this stage, I was thinking of the opening scenes.

Before I stopped working I assessed progress.

A working title, a cover, a wide spread of information required, a plan of the main location, characters … and a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I performed the brainstorming session on Thursday evening and yesterday (Friday), I spent the day working on Chapter 1 – A Leap of Faith. Take a look and leave a comment if you wish. It’s a bit rough, due to being the first draft, which like the brainstorming was produced rapidly.

After much heart-searching, I’ve amended the sub-title/strapline from dystopian to apocalyptic. The two phrases are regularly and rightly associated, but I feel my tale will lean more heavily toward one than the other. Stranger than fiction really, since I’ve only written one chapter.

You’ve got to love being an author.

As always, thank you for dropping by, and for any comments or suggestions.

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Codename: Nightshade – Update

 

Beyond The Law was my first serious crime thriller and was so successful it had to be retitled, Beyond The Law: Formation as I learned the joys and pitfalls of writing a sequel, and ultimately—a trilogy.

The BTL trilogy titles; Formation, Retribution, and Consequences were published in 2013, 2015, and 2017 respectively, and I have to admit, I was satisfied when the job was completed. The characters and the ongoing story appealed to many readers, but as the author, I always had a soft spot for Rachel Donoghue.

Before I published the third book in the BTL trilogy I had a yearning to choose a character and create an individual story, so it will come as no surprise that I selected my personal favourite.

I wrote a few experimental passages and then shelved the idea—it needed a fresh start, and the best way I knew, would be to work on other projects and return to my ‘spinoff’ idea occasionally.

It’s two years later, and I’ve brought the various chapters together, many of which had been reworked multiple times. Before it reaches the standard for beta readers to chew it over, it stands at 117, 000 words, 37 Chapters and an epilogue.

If I can entice a few good people to beta read the manuscript sometime in mid-August, I would like to aim for publication by 16th September 2019.

Could I tempt you to be a beta reader?

I have the ‘rough’ drafts of the first three chapters here on my blog under Work in Progress, Codename: Nightshade. A few lovely people have left comments on Chapter 1.

Thank you for the visit and any comments or suggestions.

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The interview by Fiona Macvie

Interviewed by Fiona Mcvie

Here is my interview with Tom Benson

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

Tom Benson, and I’m 66 …until November ….

Fiona: Where are you from?

Originally, from Glasgow, Scotland, although I’ve lived in Northeast England since my military career ended in 1992.

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m the oldest of four boys and two girls. I was eight years old when my three brothers, my parents and I, moved out from a single-room house in a rundown tenement in the east end of Glasgow. We set up home in what to us, was a luxurious two-bedroom apartment in Drumchapel, a sprawling housing estate on the city’s western boundary.

I was a natural scholar and artist, so I excelled at lessons, but due to lack of support and financial backing I was destined to leave school at 15. That was just how it was in 1967. I worked in an office for the next two years and commenced training as a book-keeper. (There’s something ironic about that job title and how life has turned out for me).

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

-Two weeks ago I published ‘One Man, Two Missions: and other stories’, my seventh collection of short stories.

– At the time of responding (July 2019), I have thirty-six published titles and I’m presently working on three projects.

– ‘Codename: Nightshade’ a standalone/spinoff of the ‘Beyond The Law’ trilogy.

– ‘Czech Mate’, a standalone thriller.

– ‘Around the Bend: and other stories’, my next collection of twelve multi-genre tales.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing my military memoirs in the mid-1990’s, having finished my army days in 1992. It took me a couple of years, because I was then a retail manager and commuting daily. When the manuscript was completed, even I knew that the story might be okay, but the writing was terrible. I left the idea aside and concentrated on my day job.

The story was written in different points of view, but I eventually opted for changing all the real names (including mine), and declared the tale to be fact-based fiction.

I wrote my military story partly as a catharsis, partly as something to leave behind, and if I’m honest—to relive those 23 years. I enjoyed the life and I survived to tell the tale.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 2007, about ten years after shelving my military life story, I started writing poetry, which was something I did spontaneously one day during my lunch-break. At the suggestion of a colleague I joined a poetry website and after a few months I attempted writing short stories.

In 2010, one of my stories was a winner in a national competition to be included in the anthology ‘Whitby Abbey – Pure Inspiration’. For me, that was the turning point—my writing and my name were in print; together. One year later I came second in an international competition.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My military career inspired my first book, ‘A Life of Choice’.It wasn’t the first story I published, but it will remain my magnum opus however many other titles I publish.

Although ‘A Life of Choice’ is available as a series of five eBooks or a paperback trilogy, it is word-for-word the same story.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

The title is a key ingredient of the whole writing package, so I tend to give myself a ‘working title’. I list more possible titles while I’m in the process of writing the particular story. The title is something which must carry appeal, but also be an accurate description of the tale, whether it be location, character, plot, a message or even a hint of the content.

‘A Life of Choice’ was not my first option, but it grew on me and I realised over time that it was an ideal fit for such an extended tale.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

In my writing I’m not inclined towards the regular use of ‘three days later’ or similar phrases to show the passage of time, so from the outset I’ve kept a perpetual diary close at hand. This means that for the sake of detail it doesn’t matter if the date were in 2018, or 1901, I would know what the specific day would be. I like my reader to be comfortable with time scale and progression.

I would hesitate to call it a style, but it’s in my nature to keep everything neat and tidy. It’s probably for that reason that I tend to produce a story in a mainly chronological order with clearly defined periods of time. Flashbacks are used sparingly, but as required. If my fiction had a style it might be referred to as ‘literary diarist’.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Although ‘A Life of Choice’ is purported to be fact-based fiction, the story is factual and autobiographical. The names and descriptions of all characters are disguised to protect the innocent … and the guilty. Apart from this I omitted a couple of family members.

Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

In the case of ‘A Life of Choice’ the travelling was already done many years before.

For my other fiction I don’t usually travel to complete the process of writing a story, but in the case of my ‘Beyond The Law’ crime trilogy, I conducted detailed research on several brief visits to my birthplace, Glasgow.

For one of my projects ‘Czech Mate’, I made copious notes on a five-day trip to Praque and several weekends in Edinburgh.

There is something visceral about walking the streets a story’s characters walk and inhabiting their world, even partially. In my military career I drove on city streets and walked among people while armed and I find it easy to recall such a strange sensation.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

The covers for my early novels; ‘Ten Days in Panama’, ‘Amsterdam Calling’, ‘A Taste of Honey’ and the ‘Beyond The Law’ trilogy were all designed by Aimee Coveney, a professional cover designer. Aimee also designed the covers for the paperback trilogy version of ‘A Life of Choice’.

I take pleasure and pride in designing my covers and have produced the others myself. I have created 34 of my present covers.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In my work generally, whether it be novel, novella, short story or poetry I strive to entertain, but in that context I work hard to provide a sense of justice, karma and a feeling that good will prevail. As things turned out in my military career, I feel that these same things occurred throughout ‘A Life of Choice’.

If there is a message in that story it is that beneath the military uniform and the confident, usually humorous facade is a human being, complete with all the trappings of any other.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

– I can’t think of anybody I’d classify as a ‘new’ author. I’m a fan of several indie authors but if I had to choose one, for consistently memorable storytelling and incredible characterisation I’d name Lesley Hayes.

Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

If you’ll excuse the pun, this is relatively easy for me. Although my wife has believed in me from the outset, neither she, nor my grown-up son have read any of my work.

If there were one entity I’d name as support it would be Amazon as a platform. After publishing a few titles, more important to me has become the psychological and personal advice and support provided by the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook.

For quality reading material in a wide variety of genres, I would recommend many of the talented authors in the IASD.

Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

I would say, yes I do, if we take it that as a career or occupation it takes up a significant part of my time and I maintain the desire to improve, or if you will, develop my craft.

Although I treat my writing as a ‘job’ I do so more to achieve the natural wish to produce stories—not to earn money. For example, I regularly send the paperback versions of my work as gifts or prizes for military veteran fund-raising events.

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I’ll refer once again to ‘A Life of Choice’ and the answer would be; no. I gave my heart and soul (not to mention twenty-three years of my life) to producing that story. At twenty years (off and on), it took almost as long to write and edit as it did to live the life.

Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

If I were to use ‘A Life of Choice’ as the book(s) I’d suggest that I learned how fortunate I was to have achieved so much after such a self-indulgent, self-destructive start to my military career. The success was, of course, a by-product of effort, enthusiasm, diligence, and professionalism, but also due to marrying Olive, my lifelong support and anchor since we tied the knot in 1977.

Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men, The Last (King of Scotland ), et al. He is not only a fellow Glasgow man, but was brought up on the same housing estate as me; Drumchapel. Like me, he was Roman Catholic and also like me, for a brief period in his childhood considered joining the priesthood.

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

To a novice writer I would suggest—do not publish until the work is as good as it can be and accept constructive criticism in good faith. We’ve all been there—really.

To established writers I would suggest—whether or not we sell our work we are promising entertainment and/or education. With this in mind we should devote ourselves to achieving what we’ve offered. Do not over-promise and under-deliver.

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

If you enjoy my books, please tell others—if you don’t; please tell me.

I’m a really big fan of reviews—particularly good ones!

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

‘The Silence of the Stones’ by Rebecca Bryn, aka Ruth Coulson.

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

– ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Mark Twain. Until I finished reading; I was Tom Sawyer.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Humour is capable of making me do both.In my writing I’ve learned to judge how realistic a scene has developed by my mental and physical reaction. I move on at a pace when writing, so it’s when I am editing for the final time that I might feel the emotion. This applies to all genre: thriller, adventure, erotica, romance.

I may not always be reduced to tears but in our modern world I despair when I see evidence of tragic loss of life. For example, with humans due to natural disaster or terrorist activity, or in the case of wildlife, wanton destruction like ‘hunting’ or ‘poaching’.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

Sir David Attenborough—the naturalist and broadcaster. My hero. He’s been to places and seen and done things many of us will only ever see on a screen. I admire his tenacity, and though in his winter years now, he remains passionate about our natural world.

I’d also like to go back in time to meet Adolf Hitler in a dark alley when we were both in our twenties …

 Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?

I’m a self-taught artist, so I draw and paint when not reading or writing. Maintenance of my physical fitness has been a personal aspiration for many years. Due to a knee injury in my forties I had to abandon long-distance running. About two and a half years ago I rediscovered my love of cycling. I go out every morning (except Monday) before breakfast to cover between ten and twenty miles.

 Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Natural History on TV has been a favourite all my life, even when the picture was black and white. In films I like humour, action, adventure and espionage.

I love the Airplane movies, the Monty Python movies and I enjoy the flippant humour in The Three Musketeers (1993 version).

 Fiona: Favorite foods, colors,  music?

I’m not now, and never have been a ‘food junkie’. I like sweet rather than savoury. If anyone pulls me up for not trying new things or eating more, I have a maxim—‘I eat to live; I don’t live to eat.’

I like reds and golds for some reason. Perhaps I should have been a Chinese temple designer or an interior designer for Chinese restaurants.

I like most music, including pop (up until about 2015), classical, instrumental, folk, country and western, and heavy metal, but I don’t like jazz, garage, funk, hip-hop or any of the other strangely designated stuff that is around now.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

–  Art would be my natural choice—most likely graphic design. If not, then musician or linguist would be my next choices. I’ve always wanted to play the piano, but though I can touch-type efficiently I don’t have the dexterity for instruments.

Although I’m capable of learning foreign vocabulary, I’m not good at conversational use. Okay, for a long time I’ve also harboured the dream of being a rally or racing driver.

Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?

 Best answered by a poem from my ‘Poetry-Volume 5 – Thrills and Chills’.

I can give you a flavour* of the piece:

Mentally Prepared

.With only one more day to live

all worldly goods I’d gladly give

to let me simply go on living

I would never tire of giving

 

I wonder how I would be

knowing soon I would be ‘free’

No more trouble and no more worry

what time is left there’s no hurry

.

I’d go to Scotland’s mountains high

watch golden eagles in the sky

I’d see the herds of deer all wander

that’s how time I would squander

*(there are five more verses)

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

‘Here lies Tom Benson: soldier, retailer, author, and artist. He was adored by women, admired by men and envied by all who saw his beautiful house in the Scottish Highlands so realising the extent of his astounding fortune.’

I would like that message to be true, but at least it would bring a smile when a visitor realised it was for fun.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

http://www.tombensonauthor.com

https://tombensoncreative.com

https://tombensonerotica.wordpress.com

https://amzn.to/2CXjflq (Amazon)

I highly recommend a visit to the IASD website which has an extensive catalogue of excellent reading material available.

https://indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

Author: http://www.tombensonauthor.com

Artist: https://www.tombensonartist.wordpress.com

Blog: http://www.tombensoncreative.com

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