Czech Mate – now available

Occasionally, when an author finds inspiration for a new story, a few notes are made, ideas become words and they quickly build into sentences. A fictional world is created, characters are born, and then problems are introduced by the author.

In the case of Czech Mate, the problems were in the real world. I visited Prague in September 2017 and within hours I had an idea and was making notes. I arrived back in the UK after my holiday and the new story was allotted time among other projects. It was about four months later when I shelved the unfinished manuscript, written in the first-person point of view.

My ‘Czech Mate’ idea didn’t have sufficient intrigue and would need time to develop in my head. Fortunately, I maintain two or more Work in Progress (WIP), so I was content to move on to something else. Although this book wasn’t getting much attention I was producing other stories so my output wasn’t an issue.

In November 2018, Czech Mate was put on hold again, having been reworked in third-person point of view. Throughout 2019 I pulled the manuscript out and wrote brief passages to build on my initial idea. It was early in 2020 before I had my Eureka moment. The basic plot remained the same but the detail of the story took on a life of its own with the introduction of two fresh characters.

How many drafts? I hear someone ask.

My response—how good are you with a scientific calculator?

The story is out there now and waiting to entertain you.

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For those of you who subscribe, Czech Mate, like all of my titles, is available to read free on Kindle Unlimited.

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Dark to Light – available

Yes, Dark to Light is out there now. The third book in the Light at The End trilogy is available to the masses.

In the first book, Light at The End, we are introduced to a coach with tourists being caught at short notice by a world gone mad. Leaders have taken their national and social media threats and claims to the extreme and toys are thrown out of the various international prams.

Light to Dark is the second part of the story and looks at those same tourists six years after their initial dash for safety. We see how they’ve not only survived, but progressed in their new life. They can’t assess the outside environment unless they investigate it—and they do. 

Dark to Light opens with a handful of the original group arriving at their latest objective. For a week they’ve put themselves out there. They’ve left the safety of the mountain to explore the wider world, smaller as it may now be.

 

I believe that in this third part I’ve brought the tale to what readers will find is an acceptable and fulfilling conclusion.

How many people will be happy to buy into the idea of a post-apocalypse story which has no zombies?

 

Time will tell, and the reviews, if any, will tell their own story. I’ll find out if my investment of time and my efforts were worthwhile. If the feedback is positive then I’ll feel justified in charging on with a spinoff story, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself and write it—yet.

Of course, there is no harm in having an idea in mind, just in case …

Please read responsibly.

Tom

Sex … In or Out?

You’ve written a great story. Do you need sex amidst the guns, fighting and mayhem, the psychological trauma and mystery, or the tenderness and promises?

When I say ‘do you need sex’ I’m obviously referring to the requirements of the story—not your personal urges. I digress … .

This blog post was born from the need to offer my opinion on a regular comment I see on social media, and if we’re all honest, it’s getting a bit tedious. The comment usually follows similar lines to: ‘… and when I reach a sex scene I move on …’

There is usually a bit more to it, but in essence, we have two main areas to address.

Question 1 – Is the reader a prude, or simply someone who knows when a sex scene could have been done more tastefully—if it were needed at all?

Question 2 – Did the author make a mistake by getting carried away, drifting from the primary genre, thus adversely affecting the plot of the story?

The answer to Question 1 is not as simple as it sounds. For some readers, if an author goes beyond: ‘… she stood with her back to the door and raised an eyebrow …’ it’s too much. For others, it’s frustratingly brief, and they want to at least know if one person is wearing matching underwear and if the other person is wearing underwear at all.

Now, Question 2 throws up a whole new dilemma. As authors, it is not simply a personal choice, but in my (humble) opinion, it is our duty to remain true to our craft. No, I’m not getting high and mighty because I’ve written more than two books—I’m simply telling it like it is. The reputation of indie authors is being destroyed from within by some people with low standards. Those of us who work long hard hours and go beyond the first draft must persevere to produce the best we can.

You cannot refer to yourself in your branding or promotional material (of whatever level) as a thriller writer if you have the main character kill someone and then for the rest of the book he/she beds every other person in the ‘adventure’. You can dress it up, or undress it if you wish, but one of the aims of any author should be to focus on the job—in this case, a good story based on the primary genre.

I write a wide variety of genre and among them is erotica. I may allow a kiss or a caress—even partial undressing in some stories but graphic, no-holds-barred sexual activity is kept for my erotica.

If an author writes thrillers, westerns, sci-fi or other genres there ought to be sufficient time invested in character development, dialogue, imagery, pace and the accurate choreography of action. Any mention of sex will usually be incidental, except, of course, for romance, some paranormal and fantasy where it may go further.

An author who writes erotica is not out to shock—they are aiming to indulge their readers in the type of material they sought. This is not to say that character development and those other ingredients I mentioned earlier are not required in erotica—they are just as important. The erotica author must avoid sex becoming the ‘story’; an opportunity to be self-indulgent with repetitive and meaningless scenes of gratuitous carnal jiggery-pokery (mainly pokery).

In my ‘mainstream’ genres, there may be terms of endearment, a kiss or an embrace but they are strategically placed. Occasionally, in my erotica, there is less need for such romantic overtures, activity or subtlety. The characters might be more interested in mutual physical gratification than an emotional rollercoaster ride but there will still be character development and the activities are created with a purpose. It depends on the story.

I believe the author should strive to be faithful to the principle genre and whatever extended subjects it entails whether it be an action-packed or psychological plot, and plot or character-driven.

If you’d like to see ‘erotica’ as it once was, read ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Like most other genres, erotica has moved on and readers are no longer satisfied with what was once considered shocking—people want to envisage themselves in scenes which will (in most cases) forever be a fantasy. With the greatest respect D.H.Lawrence, move over my friend.

I’m a great believer in the use of metaphor if it spells something out clearly. I’ll summarise with two questions to authors who are trying to work out if sex ought to be highlighted in a story?

Would you wear flip-flops and boxing gloves to run a marathon, or perhaps mask, snorkel and flippers to ride a bicycle?

Let’s be honest—if it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t belong.

Thank you for reading, and any comments.

Story Ideas with ‘Legs’

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I finished writing Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 recently. I reminded myself that it was the easiest phase. Having said that, I’ve now also completed the first full edit, which as any author will tell you can be a mind-boggling task.

You would think that having written a trilogy and two mini-series I would sail through completion of another trilogy–not so, and I don’t believe it should be easy.

Occasionally, when an author sets out to write a story, apart from the desire to create a new world where they have complete control, it’s sometimes not clear if the tale has ‘legs’. By this, I mean that in the early, exciting stages the idea might be to write a trilogy or a series. These multiple titles create an opportunity for an in-depth and ongoing tale with a cast of impressive and well-rounded characters. Authors must always remember that some story ideas don’t have the ‘legs’ for a trilogy.

What happens if the story doesn’t have ‘legs’?

The honest answer is, it becomes a book. Yes, it’s that simple. Any decent author will know as the plot unfolds whether that daydream of a saga with those interesting ideas was simply that–a daydream, and not a great prospect for a longer story.

What happens if the story does have ‘legs’?

Ah, now we’re getting back on track. In this case, the author will get underway with the tale and enjoy developing the plot, the scenario and, of course, the characters. This is what happened for me with Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. My head buzzed with ideas and characters were falling over themselves to be involved. Some of the people I considered never made it beyond the first auditions. That’s showbusiness.

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This particular story was intended to be a single book, an attempt at post-apocalyptic fiction.         I had three main things I was aiming to do with my glimpse of a world after Armageddon.

Firstly, I wanted to portray the effect of survival on a disparate bunch of people who were thrown together and would be trapped by circumstances. Secondly, I wanted to do it without the use of zombies or any other ‘undead’, which seems to be a pre-requisite for some authors of the genre. Thirdly, I wanted to involve and explore the use of the ‘Hollow Mountain‘ and the hydro-electric power station created and operating from within.

When did I know my idea had ‘legs’?

Surprisingly, this happened about halfway through the first book. I invented two people in personal situations which are poles apart. The interaction which evolved in both cases when these two individuals entered the story was the turning point. I expanded my brainstorming sheet, which is something I create for all of my stories. I knew that if treated properly, the concept had the capacity to be bigger than I’d first intended.

Did I know it would become a trilogy?

No, and again, the reason is simple. I had to wait for the response to my initial tale. For example, the cover didn’t have ‘Book 1’ added until recently. Most of the feedback was good but there’s always going to be a zombie fan. 🙂 At this point, things changed slightly. I felt that I’d accomplished something with the first book and I’d absorbed so much background information which blended with personal experience and this was indeed a story with ‘legs’–a trilogy.

Light to Dark: Light at The End – Book 2 was a tale specifically written to explore how far people might go when they’d come to terms with their ‘second chance’ and gained confidence. I believe it’s a plausible follow-up to the opening story and not a filler. There are extensions to the plot, further adventures, and character development, but for me, it had to feel that there were a natural progression, entertainment, and a satisfying ending.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and as I develop and polish the third part with many more drafts and in time send it out to beta readers, I’m feeling good about that initial daydream and my three aims for the story.

Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 will be available in early November 2020.

Thank you for any comments and suggestions.

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A Cover Story

Astute authors will recognise that irrespective of how good their story might be, it’s the cover which is the first point of contact with the reader (or ‘the customer’ if we’re honest).

I accepted early on in my writing career that if I wanted my books to be treated seriously then I’d have to part with cash, and not for vanity publishing—some people still do. In essence, I’d have to fork out before my hard work had produced any reward in royalties.

There are many more aspects which affect the success or failure of a book but for now, I’d like to stay on topic—covers.

It didn’t take much research for me to discover that poetry and short story anthologies attracted less interest than any other aspect of creative writing. Yes, as luck would have it, my first titles came into those categories, however, I’m a positive kind of guy and saw an opportunity. Here were two areas in which I could practice the dark art of cover design. Later, I would find another. 😀

My first novel took a year to write due to me also holding down a full-time management job. I produced my idea of a cover for Beyond The Law. Even with my artistic leanings, it was not an impressive sight, so let’s not go there.

For my next two novels, I bit the bullet, which is an option not many of my characters are offered. I paid a professional cover designer to cater for Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling. Both books sold steadily and a significant lesson was learned. I asked the designer to create a cover for Beyond The Law (later to be suffixed ‘Formation’. Like the other two covers, it was expensive, but the blow was softened when I saw the effect of a decent story married up to a good cover.

In less than six months, I received sufficient royalties from Beyond the Law to cover the cost of all of my first three covers. Needless to say, I went on to use the same designer for A Taste of Honey. When Beyond the Law – the trilogy was created with the addition of ‘Retribution’ and ‘Consequences I saw regular sales. 

I continued producing the covers for my short story anthologies as the books were published. Yes, they would sell, I thought, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant a hefty outlay on covers.

One interesting twist came when I wrote my magnum opus, A Life of Choice. This was a five-part, fact-based fiction series; a depiction of my military career, but I had doubts. I hoped it was written in an entertaining and engaging style, but it was simply a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t see it as a prize winner or a major money-spinner.

I designed the covers using the ‘Regimental Colours’ of the Royal Signals (my Corps), and I used a small representative graphic for each of the five stages. My theory was that the ‘colours’ would attract the eye of some of the thousands of Royal Signals soldiers past and present. Following a slow pick-up and a few good reviews, this series rapidly established itself as my top-selling story.

The only issue I had was the regular requests for it to be available in paperback. I experimented and it took several weeks but I managed to amend the end/beginning of the five parts to convert them into a paperback trilogy—the same story, in the same words but broken at different logical points in time.

I recognised a potential saboteur—overconfidence. I contacted my professional designer and gave her a simple brief, sending her photos of the three pieces of equipment to be featured, samples of the background colours and all the printed matter for front and back exterior. For example, apart from the blurb, each book in the trilogy has excerpts from three different reviews. It took a few weeks to get there and I was delighted with the designer’s solution.

An area that some indie authors fail to register is that paperbacks are formatted differently regarding the front and back matter. I took great care in presentation, as I’ve done with all of my paperback versions so that they mirror traditional books.

One aspect of this series I didn’t expect was how much it would be enjoyed by those who had never served. The primary target of any creative writer should be to provide entertainment and it gladdens my heart to know I’ve achieved my aim with this special story.

As if by magic, the paperbacks continue to sell. I’m delighted to report that they are a popular prize at the many military fund-raising events to which I donate signed copies of the trilogy. 

I recently felt that I’d gained sufficient knowledge and experience to try my hand again at the creative, challenging skill of cover design. It took a few days but I’ve refreshed the covers for the Beyond The Law trilogy. My versions are on trial for a couple of months.

Apart from poetry and short story anthologies, I said that later I was to find another area for which I could create the covers. Erotica is that area and not surprisingly there aren’t that many reviews although they are good. There are, however, plenty of sales. 😀

If you’re an author at whatever stage of your journey, please remember that a well-crafted book with a good cover is more likely to see a healthy return on the investment of your time and money.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.

Time after Time – now available

Some might see ‘Time after Time’ as a worn-out phrase but I saw it as both the inspiration and title for a new venture—a collection of tales related to ‘Time’.

I first considered a personal anthology of short stories using ‘Time’ as the theme and then it occurred to me to widen the net—offer the idea as a platform for fellow authors. I first had guests contributing original tales when I produced The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, a ‘genre-based’ collection.

 

This new anthology is not genre-based but ‘theme-based’ which means that authors had the freedom to use any genre with which they were comfortable (except erotica), but the story had to be original and related to ‘Time’.

Occasionally, an author will be attracted to a theme and in this case, a couple of my guests provided more than one story. This is a win-win. It first provides the reader with a larger volume of entertainment for the same low price of 99p/99c. It also gives the author the opportunity to showcase more of their talent in their new work.

Why is a collection of 19 stories being sold at only 99p/99c?

My reason for producing these ‘guest author’ anthologies is not to make money, but to provide a platform for my fellow scribes and me. Short stories are one step above poetry at the lower end of eBook sales but for those who enjoy a selection of coffee-time tales and like a bargain, it works well.

For the benefit of both readers and guest authors, there is a short bio and links included for all who have submitted stories. A unique feature in this anthology is a foreword about Time by etymologist, Millie Slavidou, one of my guests. I believe the brief introduction into the subject creates the right mindset before delving into the tales.

I wrote six original stories specifically for this collection and they appear at the latter end of the book. As I’ve done for my guests, I’ve included a bio and links for readers to check out my other literary efforts.

I hope you feel motivated to give this collection a try and you are entertained. As with all eBooks I publish, this one will be available to read free on Kindle Unlimited.

If you do try the book, please consider leaving a review.

Thank you.

Tom 

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Light to Dark – now available

Six years have passed

They’re at it again—those people inside the mountain. Not content with having survived the apocalypse and found an underground sanctuary, it’s a few years later, and now they want to go out exploring.

 

If you enjoyed Light at The End, the first instalment of the tale, I’m confident you’ll enjoy this.

What could possibly go wrong when they go outside the mountain to investigate what’s left?

I’ll leave it for you to find out.

As always, any reviews are much appreciated and help to guide my hand in the next venture.

Amazon Preview/Buy

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The final part is underway and my objective is, of course, to take the tale to a logical but fulfilling conclusion.

Unusually, I’ve already     written most of the final chapter, but for this tale, it was necessary to provide me with the inspiration to   complete the trilogy.

 

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Mid-year Magazine

This year I’ve enjoyed the solitude of my study, reading, writing and generally continuing as I have since retiring thirty months ago. Two holidays have been cancelled and a considerable number of one-day  ‘shopping’ trips to other towns. I cycle early in the morning and work at my chosen creative craft every day.

In January I published Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. It may not have as many reviews as I’d like but those it has received have been good and gave me the confidence to write a sequel. Light to Dark went through several drafts prior to going out to beta readers. It has since been printed and attacked again with my red pen so the manuscript is now resting before a final read.

If the international crisis has affected me in any way it has increased my productivity. A lack of holidays and away-days has provided me with many extra hours of writing time. Shopping trips are done when a necessity only and are local. I sit in the car maintaining social distance, with my clipboard and pen so I can continue writing.

In March I created the eBook Bank International website with the objective of making eBooks more affordable during the Covid 19 crisis. I set a closing date of 1st July and with the support of 17 other authors, the site carried 135 titles at one time. It was a site to offer books at a lower price, but I’m happy to say it stimulated sales for more than one author.

I’ve continued to work on Time after Time: and other stories which is almost ready for publication. I have again invited guest authors to submit stories. This is not a money-making venture but will provide a platform for authors. There are 18 stories covering a variety of genre, but all on the theme of ‘Time’.  Good value at 99p/99c.

In the pipeline, I have Dark to Light (Book 3 of the Light at The End trilogy), Czech Mate, Codename Foxglove and my next mixed-genre anthology Around the Bend: and other stories.

In the background when stories are ‘resting’ between drafts, I’ve indulged my pseudonym by building on ideas which have been simmering in the background over a few years. Most of Katya Cumming’s stories originated as short stories or passages which didn’t work in other books.

This year so far, Katya has produced a two-part novel, an anthology of short stories and a novel. After three more novels she will stop. This will meet her target of a dirty dozen novels and an anthology. She has her own website at Katya Cumming – Erotica.

Apart from reading purely for pleasure, I’ve also been a beta reader for several authors so far this year. For me, beta reading is not a task, especially if I like the author’s work, it makes me feel that I’ve been instrumental in some small way helping to raise their game with a story. Isn’t that one of our responsibilities as indie authors?

Lest I forget, Light to Dark – Light at The End Book 2, will be available 10th July 2020.

Thank you for dropping by.

Beyond the story

 

Inspiration comes to authors in many ways and from countless sources. It may be that phrase overheard while out shopping, how another driver has misbehaved, or a special location on holiday. For most people, a walk, run, cycle, drive or any other outing is simply a means of     getting from Point A to Point B.

To a writer, each trip holds golden opportunities.

I’ve written poetry and short stories which feature the Scottish Highlands and the region makes an appearance in several of my novels.     Indeed, most of my erotica series, Highland Games is based there in a remote glen.

Light at The End had been a story idea for a few months but I needed more than what I’d conjured up in my imagination. I didn’t want an entirely fictional tale, I wanted to include something   substantial from the real world … a piece of reality which could not be denied.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that when I eventually went on a tour of Cruachan Hydro-Electric Power Station my imagination went into hyperdrive. The installation is   colloquially known as The Hollow Mountain because the   entire enterprise is inside a mountain. The only visual   indication that the place is established is the dam between two lochs.

I’d considered a story in which the ‘Hollow Mountain’ was a feature but my visit became absorbing research. I went on the tour inside the mountain which for me meant photographs, notes, sketches and a host of questions for three of the members of staff.

My new story, at last, had a foundation and my characters evolved. Over the past few months, it has become my top-selling title. It may not have many reviews but I blame that on rules regarding reviewer eligibility.

From the feedback I’ve had in comments, emails and the handful of reviews the book has received, I’ve been emboldened to get working on a sequel.

Light to Dark will take over where Light at The End left off and we shall see just how my survivors have fared in their brave new world;      inside a mountain.

 

Unlike the first book, the research for the sequel has been conducted over many years. I’ve walked, climbed, canoed, abseiled, camped and enjoyed being reminded of man’s insignificance amidst mountains, rivers and forests which existed before us and will outlive us.

 

My aim is to show how the apocalypse survivors sense the need to move forward and the difficulties they encounter on their new adventures to save mankind from extinction.

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Free to Choose

Let’s be honest from the outset, few folks are going to spend their cash if they can get something free of charge.

In the world of eBooks there are many reasons for titles to be offered ‘Free’ which include:

–an author’s promotion.

–a website promotion.

— a story to attract interest in the author’s work.

— pirate sources offering authors’ work free illegally.

How about paying a reduced price instead of aiming straight for the freebie?

 

 

 

 

Again, we have a number of reasons but now we’re being asked to pay so why would we choose to do such a thing?

Instead of making a list, there is one main aspect I’d highlight. The author or the supplier is content that the product is worthy of being sold but for whatever reason, the price has been reduced. The onus is on the buying public to look at the reduction which is invariably explained to us in a brief message or if you prefer ‘sales pitch’.

Personally, I’m sceptical when it comes to getting something for ‘free’, but I’m always happy to pay if I perceive a bargain. For example, if there were an eBook that caught my eye and I was getting it for a reduced price I’d buy it, especially if it were by an author I’d yet to try.

In this present climate of international lock-down, we have many thousands of people who are reading more or possibly reading for the first time in many years. Money is a concern, of course, so once again we’re back to that question of taking what’s free or pay, but not too much.

It was with this theory in mind that I created the eBook Bank International a few weeks ago. eBooks for 99p  (or equivalent).

No, it’s not a promotional website for authors in the conventional sense, it is a place which has in excess of 120 titles covering a wide range of genres and includes 17 authors’ work. This is a site which promotes authors, eBooks and the idea that just for once somebody cares about how much money people can afford to spend.

Why is the website based on ‘selling’ for 99p (or equivalent) instead of just giving away our books?

Imagine the number of people out there with an eReader who grab anything for free. Many of them will download titles they’ll never read but they got them for free–their only reason to take the book.

Now, imagine the number of people who might be prepared to pay but only a small amount … say, 99p for an eBook which is normally £2.49. Each title purchased is an investment by that reader and they will likely go on to read the book.

What do the authors get from reducing their prices but not making the titles free?

Interest in their hard work is the first thing, and then, of course, a few sales due to the lower price. The authors involved in this venture may give up a small amount in the first place but they’ve made an investment–in readership. Perhaps their £2.49 title was competitive but the price still put people off and then that same book was offered at 99p … a win-win situation.

Again, on a personal note, I’d rather see a title sell fifty times at 99p than twice at £2.49.

In this post, I’ve featured a variety of my titles but there are many other authors involved in the eBook Bank project, so why not pay a visit and pick up a bargain for 99p (or equivalent).

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