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 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?
Light at The End, as I’ve said before, was an experiment. If it had been ridiculed by my beta readers I’d have shelved or abandoned writing a post-apocalyptic story. It’s also important to me that I enjoy telling the story because in my opinion, an author can generate enthusiasm in the telling.
I wrote a post some time ago regarding my first attempt at a trilogy and I’ll quote a snippet:
‘Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.
Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.’
Now, here I am on that same road once again. I am close to completion of Light to Dark which will be the sequel to Light at The End. A few days ago while out walking in local woodland I was struck by inspiration, and no, it didn’t hurt. When I got home I made notes for the final chapter if the story were a trilogy.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. I was thinking about how to end Book 2 and I imagined how things could go after that point … and so was born the early ideas for Dark to Light … Book 3 in the Light at The End trilogy.
I aim to have Book 2 ready for beta readers in August.
For me, from the outset, the tale has been a departure from most other stories I’ve written but the genre offers so many possibilities. I’ve been finding that however things might be going for the characters there must be a sense of hope … that things can’t just end because of the ill-considered actions of a few.
After all, don’t we all need to believe that there is to be a tomorrow?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 firmbeliever 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.
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 theIndie Author Support and Discussiongroup (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for theIASDhorror anthologyDepths 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 superbConnections eMagproduced 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.
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.
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.
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.