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.

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.

 

Happy New Writing Year – 2017

Turning a new page is how some of us judge the prospect of a new writing year. In December 2016 I assessed the centre of my writing world – my study. Okay, it’s a converted bedroom but it’s been my study for several years – the title has been earned.

During a domestic re-hash I cleared out my 20-year-old desk, complete with the hutch shelving. I re-organised my stationery, research material, notice boards and other accessories. The year ahead is important for me in several ways, but more of that later.

My head was buzzing with ideas for 2017, and refreshed surroundings was the way to go.

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My writing targets for the forthcoming year:

  1. Beyond The Law: Consequences. Conclusion of the trilogy.
  2. A Life of Choice – Part Four.
  3. A Life of Choice – Part Five. Conclusion of the series. I have two choices of graphic for the final part of the story. In both cases the graphic is a spoiler, so I’ll leave the question mark until closer to publication.
  4. Temptation: and other stories. My usual offering – twelve varied tales.
  5. Highland Games – 3: An Erotica Novella.
  6. Highland Games – 4: An Erotica Novella.
  7. Highland Games – 5: An Erotica Novella. Conclusion of the series.
  8. Prepare a standalone story / spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.
  9. Instead of attempting to produce one of my novels as a paperback using CreateSpace, which would be ambitious and affect other projects – I’ll study the issues of the paperback option, ready for 2018.
  10. Maintenance of the IASD blog/website, and continued support of our members in whatever capacity I am able. This includes reading, reviewing, and beta-reading.
happy-new-writing-year-2017-2

Three of the aforementioned titles are beyond fourth draft, and another is at an advanced stage.

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I tend not to use my blog posts as a personal diary however, for the benefit of my peers and my readership I’d like to clarify my position as we set off into the new year.

In 2012, I reached the 20-year point in my second career; Retail Management. I was in the early stages of my writing career and gave careful consideration to my options. As I progressed from poetry, to short stories, and novels – I stepped down in stages in my retail work. I went from manager, to deputy manager, to part-time deputy manager – to sales assistant.

Many of my retail colleagues have been incredulous to see a person steadily letting go of the reins of power. What might not have been so obvious to them in the process was the shedding of responsibility and the accompanying stress. A lot of the stress was self-inflicted due to my prediliction for maintaining the highest possible standards – whatever issues might have been affecting the various tasks I had, or stores I managed.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working locally and on a part-time, three-day week basis. My change of circumstances is largely responsible for the increased production in my creative writing.

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Summer – 2016

2017 will be a landmark year in two main ways. In March I’ll celebrate being married to Olive for 40 years, and early in November I will achieve retirement age (65). I intend to stop working for other people in October.

It will come as no surprise I will not be wondering how to fill my time. Apart from keeping up with the myriad duties of a husband, I’ll have more time to read, draw, paint, cycle and maintain my fitness … and of course I’ll be writing.

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

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My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

As I did for 2015, I gave myself ten targets for 2016:

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

4.   Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories

5.  Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology

6.   Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

7.  Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using CreateSpace

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10. Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

In terms of writing it’s been a year of the series for me, and apart from those mentioned, I’ve been working on Beyond The Law: Consequences, which will bring the trilogy to a close. I found writing a sequel a daunting task, but the final part of the story is proving more of a challenge. I aim to produce the book in early 2017.

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1.  I created the artwork to accompany my poem Whisper Wood for the IASD Children’s anthology.

2.  I revised and heavily edited my published work which took between two to three weeks for each book.

3.  In conjunction with the other Admins, I made a few visits to the IASD blog/website to update and keep members abreast of our news. The Featured Author will be continuing in 2017.

4.  An unexpected occurrence was becoming the mentor for a newbie erotica author. I read the debut title and found the story and writing failed in several areas. The few public reviews were praising the story, but none were justified in my opinion. Instead of damning the book publicly I left a comment on another reader’s review.

The story author got in touch and was keen to know more. I told him I wasn’t an expert, but his work needed more substance. At his request I provided a critique of the story. He pulled the book from Amazon, reworked it and sent it to me for a second opinion. It was much improved and he’s now working on his next title.

5.  I was the beta reader for a couple of our IASD authors, and I read and reviewed several books by members.

barn-owl-96.  I’ve taken brief breaks by drawing and by updating my Tom Benson Author website and my Creative Writer and Artist website.snowy-owl-004

 

In certain areas I achieved more than I expected, but there were casualties in my battle-plan.

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1.  I spent two months revising and editing Codename Koki for Malcolm Beadle, but it appears my mix of honesty, integrity, and expectation were too much. I haven’t heard from Malcolm for a few months, but I’m sure he’s working on the story and other projects.

2.  I have yet to create a paperback, so perhaps 2017 will be the year for me to try CreateSpace.

Blogging A to Z 20164 . On the social scene I had a timely reminder I am not a blogger who writes, but a writer who blogs. I entered the 2016 A to Z Challenge with the best of intentions, but after a few days I abandoned the attempt. Having completed the challenge before, I recalled many hours spent responding and reviewing and in honesty, I couldn’t justify the time. I had difficulty maintaining an interest.

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5.  Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking, and concentrate on reading and writing. I’ve been true to my goals for most of the time. This year I’ve tried to strike a balance. Not many reviews will have been seen from me because I’ve dipped into my TBR, but I’ve also read from my large collection of paperbacks.

I have an allegiance to the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has been assisted by my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. I’ll be continuing my monthly giveaways in the coming year.

What do I have planned for 2017?

Once again my year will be dominated by ‘series’ but I’ll give more detail in my first blog post of 2017. I have an ambitious number of titles lined up for completion. A lot of the groundwork is laid and I continue to work across titles simultaneously.bike-shots-plus-033

Retirement late in 2017 means I’ll devote more time to my passion, and to my renewed interest in cycling, which is where I do a lot of my thinking and scene setting.

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

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A Life of Choice: Part Three

a-life-of-choice-first-three

To meet demand for more, the third part of this five-part story is available on Amazon.

A Life of Choice is sometimes sad, occasionally humorous, but always insightful. If you haven’t read any of the series so far, but you’re tempted …

The first three chapters of all of the first parts are available on this blog.

Alternatively, if you select the appropriate Amazon Preview/Buy link, you’ll be able to see the story formatted as it would be for your Kindle or Free Kindle App.

As with the first two parts, I appreciate all feedback, and particularly if it comes in the form of a review.

Part Four is scheduled for Spring 2017, and Part Five is scheduled for Summer 2017.

If you’d prefer to have links to go straight to Preview/Buy to read in Kindle format:

A Life of Choice: Part One – Innocence and Inebriation

A Life of Choice: Part Two – Paths and Progression

A Life of Choice: Part Three – On and Off the Rails

As always, all comments/feedback is welcome and thank you for visiting my blog.

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Re: Cycling, and Recycling

writing-recycling

What connects my title topics to creative writing?

As a teenager I was a keen cyclist and would be content to go on a ride alone, or with my best friend. Since my childhood I’ve valued solitude as much as companionship. While I spent time alone, away from regular surroundings my mind was free. The time to let my thoughts roam provided me with an unequalled exhilaration.

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bike-shots-plus-025Move forward fifty years. My trusty steed of recent times has been a re-cycled mountain bike I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago. Function ruled over appearance, but I gave it a re-spray for good measure (from red/blue to black). During the spring as I pedalled to work I recalled how I felt all those years ago when cycling far from my usual haunts.

In the summer of this year I treated myself to a new road-racer. I’ll admit the idea behind the purchase was a two-pronged attack.

I yearned for the sensation of freedom a long cycle ride gave me, but I also wanted a regular exercise to help shift a few unwanted pounds. A change of diet was underway, but to achieve a lasting result takes more than extra fruit and less chocolate.

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bike-shots-plus-033How have things shaped up?

Since July I’ve re-discovered the joy of cycling solo. Not many folk want to join a person who sets off at six o’clock in the morning for a twenty-mile ride, but the other benefits add to my contentment. The two bonuses are worlds apart.

I’ve lost 25lbs which leaves me at a personally acceptable 10st 12lbs (152lbs). For perspective, I’m 5ft 8ins tall.

On each ride I rehash and mentally rebuild one or two scenes or sequences from my latest work in progress. I replay a passage often enough to recall it clearly when I return to my keyboard.

In business terminology I’ve found a win-win situation re: cycling, and recycling.

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How does recycling work as a creative writer?

A good writer will not throw out an idea, but store it to be retrieved at a later date. It might be a character profile, a sentence, a paragraph, an opening line, a title, or the main points of a story which isn’t gelling as required. Whatever the aforementioned item might be, it can be brought back to life at any time.

When a writer creates an article for a magazine or newspaper, the creative material is capable of being used with another magazine, thus increasing earnings from the same research. The effort required after the initial article is in the rehashing of the words as the ‘piece’ is prepared for recycling.

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blog-two-books-one-story

 Do I have a favourite way of recycling a story?

Yes. It took me many attempts at reviving certain stories before a simple solution hit home. In many hours of reading text books and other people’s work I saw how a tale could be affected by the point of view.

1.  How the story is told might be the difference between a good story, and a great story.

2.  Whoever tells the story has a crucial bearing on how it comes across to the reader.

For example:

A story told in first person creates a ‘me and you’ intimacy between character and reader.

The intimacy is intensified if the narrator is the main character and creates a personal introduction early. Empathy between reader and narrator evolves rapidly.

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What’s my favourite recycling project?

A Life of Choice - Part OneA Life of Choice is without doubt my best example of recycling a writing project. The story is loosely based on my personal experiences during military service, and has undergone more recycling than water in a space station.

My career in khaki ended in 1992, but the intention to tell the story occured before I handed in my uniform. The urge to relive it through writing was strong. Unfortunately, what wasn’t as strong was the requisite writing skills. Undaunted, I put together hundreds of passages and snippets of long-remembered conversations.

In 1996 my working title was ‘1001 Short, War Stories’.**

I had no knowledge of point of view, back-story, info-dumping, formatting, or … well, you get the idea.

I had no serious intention of producing a tale for anybody other than me and my family. As it happens, neither my wife, nor our son (now 33), enjoy reading fiction.

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How have I brought cycling and recycling together with my favourite project?

As I write about a particular time period from my past I listen to music of the era. I’ve found inspiration from a single track, and on occasion a ‘sound’ like: The Sound of Philadelphia, the New Romantics, Synthesisers, the 80’s. The idea works when at my keyboard, but is equally useful when on the road.

Prior to my ride each morning I get into my cycling outfit, but before setting off, I listen to a single piece of music from a time period on which I’m working. The most recently heard music is rememberd naturally.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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Many people think of recycling as a task. They consider what they might be able to recycle, and a lot of materials are simply discarded, because it’s easier. Laziness is a human trait.

Writers are a breed apart in a lot of ways, and recycling should be a major ingredient of our lives – at least with regard to our literary intentions. We tend not to give up, and those who know their craft will hold onto written material which another person might consider meaningless.

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As always, any comments are welcome, and I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and reasoning.

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A Life of Choice – Part One, and A Life of Choice – Part Two are available on Amazon now. A Life of Choice – Part Three will be published by the end of November 2016.

A Life of Choice - Part ThreeThe final two parts of the tale will be published in the spring and summer of 2017 respectively.

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**1,001 Short War Stories has never been more than my earliest attempts at creative writing. I recently produced the cover seen above to support this post.

Writing is series work ….

2016-so-far

Graphic links to Anthologies page of author website.

Before this year got underway I set myself certain targets regarding my writing. Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking. Yes, it’s the mainstay of our marketing for self-published authors, but I’m working on the theory – if I have more titles with quality time spent on them, it’s better than pushing the present catalogue.

I’m delighted to report I’ve been true to my goals … for most of the time. In the past I’ve gone from conducting a minimum of marketing to going overboard, and this year I’ve aimed to strike a balance.

I tend not to advertise too much prior to publication of a title, and so far, I haven’t embraced the ‘pre-order’ idea. This year so far I’ve produced five titles, but none were rushed. Due to my method of working, I have three projects underway at any given time. I may work on one book for a week or a month, and when it is left to simmer, I pull up one of the others. Of the five titles in the banner above three of them had been rewritten several times before 2016.

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Working on different projects in such a way may not appeal to everybody, but I’ve found it maintains my interest, and my productivity – if I avoid the distraction of social media.

iasd-globe-2I have an allegiance to, and certain responsibilities regarding the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it’s never a hardship to work towards the success of the group. The IASD has been and will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has come about, in the sense I’ve continued with my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. This month the free book appears on the 15th/16th.

Apart from the regular free books, I update the News page of my author website monthly, and the detail is posted in all the usual places.

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What have I got in store for the remainder of this year?

I’m presently sharing my writing time between four projects. Before the end of the year I’m hoping to publish: the third title in the series A Life of Choice, the final part of the Beyond The Law trilogy, and if the characters will misbehave for me – the third in the Highland Games erotica novella series.

The fourth project (not shown in graphic), is my next anthology Temptation: and other short stories, which is under constant revision.

part-threes

Of the aforementioned titles I’ve discovered a peculiarity. The Highland Games series carries the lowest priority for me, but when I feel the need to get away from another project, or I simply want to escape into a world of fantasy, the words flow easily with my erotica series.

When I’m out and about in life and my notebook makes an appearance, it is invariably to jot down a new idea, character, or situation for one of the series.

However the rest of my writing year goes, my readership may rest assured I’ll be putting every effort into producing my best entertainment.

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

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Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Click graphic for book blurb.

If you’ve been kind enough to check out this post I think it’s fair to drop a subtle hint about Tom’s two-day freebie for October ….

This was my first romance, but has recently been revisited.