Category Archives: Novel

Beta or Worse?

Okay, so you’ve written a book and you’ve got a cover.

When you’re happy, do you go ahead and publish, or do you take it steady and make sure it’s readable?

Personally, I ask for beta readers and the more the merrier, whether it be a novel or a         collection of short stories. Yes, there might be a few issues in the final product but they also appear in books by acclaimed traditionally-published authors. Errors can be cut down dramatically with some effort and patience. It’s the responsibility of the author to produce the best book they can.

Before I send a manuscript to readers I’ll have gone at least as far as the third draft and on at least two occasions printed the story to perform a ‘red-pen’ edit. Even then, I tend to offer my beta readers a handful of things I’m    concerned about—a reader’s guide if you like:

Does the intro work? Is the dialogue realistic? Are the characters believable? Did you enjoy the story?

The list can be as long as the author feels necessary, but it’s hoped that the beta reader will highlight other issues too. If you create your characters and your imaginary world with care and attention to detail it will help to make the end product believable.

I’ve performed beta reading for many indie authors. Each book is different in length, style, author’s voice and topic. Not every book might be one I’d go looking for as reading material, but if it will help a fellow author I’m glad to do what I can if I can afford the time.

No, I’m not an editor but my expertise is that of the   reader who knows when something isn’t right in a variety of areas.

I know for example that firing an automatic pistol at a padlock or a door lock is about as much good as throwing your pen at it. Similarly, the only time firing a handgun at an escaping car will work is in movie-land. I know when to use farther instead of further, and inquiry rather than enquiry. No, a cowboy wasn’t thrown against the barn door by the ‘blast’ from a Colt 45, and I don’t care how close his adversary might have been. They’d need to be close just to hit one another. Cars don’t explode simply because they’ve overturned, and some blades don’t slide straight back out of the body after being thrust inward and upward.

Consistency and continuity are important to me and they are not the same thing.

Regarding consistency, I’m looking for a character’s name to always have one spelling, unless a nickname is used, and if a character has blue eyes, then they shouldn’t have brown eyes in the next chapter.

In continuity, I expect that when a character gets into a blue Jaguar and drives somewhere, they don’t get out of a red BMW at their destination.

To avoid rereading I prefer that no two characters use the same weapon, drive the same car or have similar names.

Two characters should not have their voices heard in the same paragraph but it seems to happen in a lot of eBooks. Sentences should also be manageable so that by the time you reach the end you remember the subject.

Dialogue tags don’t always have to be descriptive because the imagery and the dialogue ought to be creating the picture.

It’s fine, even preferable for a character to have a favourite word or phrase but not an author. Think about that one.

One of my greatest gripes is an author who doesn’t know their subject. Take for example the case of the famous   author who’s BDSM character introduces a young woman to mild punishment by giving her a traumatic thrashing with a leather belt, or … no, I’ll leave erotica out of this. Some misguided ideas would make your eyes water.

You get the idea … research, research, research, and don’t just use Google.

If you have space and are physically capable, get out of your chair and try the move you’ve just choreographed. How about:

Getting out of the car, she touched-up her lip gloss and lifted her purse.

No, she didn’t do it all while ‘getting out of the car’ she performed three separate actions.

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time beta-reading for fellow indies and one of the things I feel that it does is help me in my writing. When I see an issue it tends to stand out and I learn from it, so it’s much less likely that I’ll do it in my work. Invariably, I gain confidence in my writing by seeing that in many cases I know when something is wrong or could be improved.

As an author, I’m aware of how important it is that I read regularly and widely. Thankfully because I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited I’ve been able to start and discard three books in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunate,   perhaps, but if those authors had taken the time to ask for a beta reader or two and I’d finished their books, I might have become a fan.

This article isn’t a rant, I’m highlighting an area of our craft that all indie authors should consider.

All comments are appreciated as always.

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P.S. Yes, I have changed my blog theme again. 🙂

My New Writing Year – 2020

 

My New Writing Year – 2020

Welcome to my world in this new writing year. Due to the methodology of creative writing, it is a craft in which the product disregards the passing from one year to the next. Of course, authors, like many other people like to feel they are making progress, so we recognise the new year even if our work doesn’t.

Work in Progress (WIP) I am bringing forward this year?

 

Light at The End. This is my first attempt at a post-apocalyptic novel. The seventh draft is now as much history as the missiles which are mentioned early in the story. I’ve had alpha and beta readers check out the tale. I aim to publish on Saturday 11th January 2020.

OMG, that’s next weekend.

 

Czech Mate. This story features a young art dealer from Edinburgh who follows up a mysterious and cryptic message left in his father’s will. As the title suggests, Bryce, our hero finds himself in the Czech Republic and then things get complicated. This story has been put on hold over the past year for a variety of reasons but I’m aiming for publication in 2020.

 

Codename: Foxglove. This is a sequel to Codename: Nightshade.    In the ‘Nightshade’ story, Rachel Donoghue continues the work she was trained for by Phil and Annabel in the Beyond the Law trilogy.

 

Dominique McEwan, a young woman with a keen sense of justice is recruited and assessed by Rachel Donoghue (Deadly Nightshade). The pair vow to work together and build a new team of vigilante operatives. How rapidly this story develops will depend on how many other projects in which I become involved.

 

 

Around the Bend is my next anthology of mixed-genre short stories. This collection opens with a fact-based tale of a road accident. I witnessed the incident and was then involved in the rescue of one of the vehicle drivers. The other stories in this anthology include covert operations, romance, horror, comeuppance, police detectives and more.

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At the time of producing this post, I have no immediate plans to publish more erotica in my own name. I already have two more erotica titles underway but they will be under the Katya Cumming banner. ‘Katya’ has six titles available and all are doing well, although reviews are scarce as we all know. My intention is for her to cease producing work when ten titles are achieved.

My first target with Katya was to use the pseudonym as an experiment, which produced positive results, and the secondary aim is to reach ten titles. Six are published, two more are WIP and I have two more sketched out as basic ideas.

Click on the graphic to go to Katya’s Amazon page

What else is on the cards for me this year?

I’d like to publish another invitation anthology in 2020. As I did with The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories I will produce at least six tales and add work from other authors. My aim is to create an anthology of twelve original stories plus three or more bonus tales of a similar theme. Like the main collection, the bonus stories will come from my guest authors and me, but they will be stories which are previously published. The idea may or may not work, but my choice of theme is ‘Time’, hence the title, Time after Time. If you’re interested, please use the highlighted title or click on the book cover to go to the WIP page. 

I will be reading for pleasure, and beta reading throughout the year as normal which takes a lot of my time, but while I’m helping a fellow author of whatever level, you won’t find me complaining. I will be continuing to mentor my good friend, fellow author and poet Carmen Lopez.

(UK link)

Two anthologies of short stories have put Carmen on the global stage, and this year gets underway with the recent publication of her first novel, Beware The Fury. (US link)

 

C. I. Lopez on Amazon.com  

 

 C. I. Lopez on Amazon UK

 

Thank you for your visit and any comments/suggestions, and now, on with the creativity. 

Tom

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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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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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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