A Life of Choice—Reborn

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I can say with confidence that I will never apply as much effort to any other writing task as I have to ‘A Life of Choice’.

It was 49 years ago this week when I left home to start basic training with the British Army. My military career ended in 1992, after 23 years, and it was a couple of years later when I gathered information towards writing about that career as military memoirs. It would take many years before I’d gained sufficient writing knowledge and skill to produce an entertaining tale.

I tried the fact-based route first, both in the first-person point of view and in third-person. The end product was massive and carried far too much detail—it went into ‘storage’.

When I’d successfully written and published thrillers, romance, short stories and poetry, I turned once again to my magnum opus. I toyed with fact or fiction, and viewpoint. My choice was fact-based fiction, written in the first-person point of view.

By 2016 the first of five parts was published and was well-received. As each part went out, the reviews continued to be positive, so I sidelined my other writing projects. I still tried to read, review and help my peers with their projects. Apart from public reviews on my new series, I started receiving private messages via my author website—mainly from ex-soldiers (male and female), who wanted to pass on their gratitude for the accuracy and humour. Most of these guys were not comfortable writing public reviews.

My only concern was that many serving and ex-service personnel were not e-reader users and I have regularly received requests for a paperback version.

Five paperbacks would have been easy to produce, and would also be simple to ‘match’ on websites or outlets. Marketed as five paperbacks, the series would have been expensive to buy, so I set myself a series of tasks.

1. Perform a complete rewrite to tighten dialogue and deal with minor amendments.

2. Break the story to balance the chapters and create a consistent ‘volume’ for each of the five parts.

3. Select the appropriate places to break the story to make a paperback version as a trilogy edition.

4. Rewrite all blurbs for the five eBooks, and three fresh blurbs for the paperback trilogy.

5. Compose a disclaimer which could be used with internet marketing blurbs and within the books regarding the different editions having the same content overall.

6. Select excerpts from reviews to use on the back covers of the trilogy.

7. Build a catalogue of information to educate my book cover designer regarding the ideal graphics solutions. This was difficult because anything available now in photographic evidence is very different to the equipment I would have known in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and early ’90’s. We persevered, and the trilogy covers feature equipments which were landmarks in my story.

As I’ve done for my novels, I hired the talents of Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio–a designer who works tirelessly until the solution meets customer satisfaction.

 8. Organise the sequence of publishing—all five amended eBooks and the trilogy, only when I had the bespoke covers for the trilogy.

9. Create graphics to market the two editions separately and together.

10. Prepare my author website and this blog for when the new trilogy went public.

 

I commenced this renewed labour of love in June 2018. Once again, apart from helping other writers on individual projects, and managing a major task for the Indie Author Support and Discussion group—most of my efforts went on the conversion process.

How did I relax when it was getting intense?

Several times I pulled out one of my erotica projects—as difficult to write as any other genre, but light relief in terms of content. Occasionally I’d draw, paint, or read, but not as often as I wanted because I felt a sense of guilt for not ‘working’.

In mid-October, I completed the conversion of five eBooks into three paperbacks. It was around 7th November, when I completed the final formatting sequence for the revised eBook versions … and then I had another coffee.

The pricing of the paperback trilogy is more than I’d have wanted, but I reconcile my concerns knowing that each book is around 570 pages. It was vitally important that nothing was removed from the story. 

Useful Links:

My Author Website

Amazon UK – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

BookLinker-Universal – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

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Who might find an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of my paperback trilogy?

Apart from review excerpts by a selection of ex-Royal Signals personnel, and an ex-Army wife, I opted for snippets from fellow authors, namely: Frank Parker, Barbara Fagan Speake, Paul A Ruddock, John MW Smith, and Paul Rees—notably, all fellow members of the IASD.

Thank you for taking an interest, and passing a few minutes with me.

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Five into Three

 

A Life of Choice is fact-based fiction, presently available as a five-part novel for Kindle. The story is the most popular title in my catalogue.

If my first attempts at this tale were included, A Life of Choice has been a work in progress for about twenty-two years. On the other hand if we were to treat my military service as research for the story—it goes back to forty-eight years.

Whatever else I published it was always important to me that I completed this project. It was heart-warming to see the first reviews from serving personnel and ex-Service personnel, of course, but to see glowing reviews from readers who’d never donned a military uniform—gratifying.

As with all of my writing, it was never my intention to publish in paperback, but like many things, I’ve decided to change course and take that step.

Why paperback?

– Since the first part was published as an eBook (two years ago), I’ve had requests to produce the story in paperback. There are many people out there who either have difficulty using a digital reader, or simply prefer a physical book.

– It will give me the opportunity to use the paperback version as a gift, or on occasion a ‘prize’ in draws for various military charities.

Do I expect to make a profit from sales of a paperback edition?

No.

– I don’t write to make money, which I like to think is reflected in the price range of my eBooks. My titles are competitively priced or they wouldn’t be treated seriously.

– By the very nature of indie paperback publication the individual books are expensive when compared to availability of the household names in any supermarket or bookstore.

– I’ve created the covers for my eBooks with a few exceptions—those being designed by a professional cover designer.

– This series will have covers created by Aimee Coveney of Author Design Studio.

What’s going on with the ‘Five into Three’?

I produced the story in logical parts to publish as eBooks, but the individual books would not justify the price set by Amazon for paperback versions—in my opinion.

Due to the the process and use of the data provided by the author, the Amazon KDP system requires exact information when relating an eBook to a paperback. I’m taking a risk, but trying to think outside the box.

A temporary cover idea.

– For the paperback version, the series will be broken into three parts. They will still be ‘logical’ parts, but of greater substance than their digital counterparts.

– To ensure the job is done properly I’ve spent many hours selecting where to move chapters from one book to another in order to adjust overall length. This has entailed amending the Preface and the Epilogue in each part.

– As I did with Amsterdam Calling, and Ten Days in Panama, I am underway with a complete revision of the story. The tale will remain the same, the humour or more serious aspects will stay in place, but the writing will be tighter. I will also be adjusting the use of uppercase letters for certain instances.

– Instead of associating the paperbacks directly with the eBooks within the Amazon system, I will sub-title the paperbacks as The Trilogy Edition. I’m in the process of writing appropriate jacket blurbs to highlight that it is the same story but in a different format. This will also forestall any conflict with Amazon and their ‘Matchbook’ process.

Will the updated writing have a detrimental effect on the eBook version?

No.

I will be using the rewritten chapters from within the paperback manuscripts to replace the chapters in the appropriate eBooks. In this way, the writing is updated but the front and back matter of each book remains constant.

How will I prevent issues with the publication of the ‘original’ and ‘updated’ editions of the eBooks?

I will prepare all five eBooks and update them in one session so that they’ll become ‘live’ on the Amazon system within hours of each other.

How will I ensure that ‘The Trilogy Edition’ paperback version is seen to be the same story?

– I will not publish any of the paperback versions until I have all three completed.

– As with the eBook updated versions, I will publish the three paperbacks in a single session, aiming for them to appear within hours. Paperbacks are not purchased as rapidly or frequently as eBooks so there isn’t as much pressure on timing.

A Life of Choice: The Trilogy Edition – Part One is completed.

There you have it, people.

In my next post I’ll report on how things are going with my conversion of five into three, and I’ll explain why my eBook publishing plans for this year have been altered.

As always, I thank all of you who take the time to visit and read my blog.

Mid-year Writing Summary – 2018

 

I believe the greatest pressure applied to an indie author is from within—as should be the case with any self-motivated person. We must have a heartfelt desire to produce work to the best achievable standard. This sets the tone for this post.

Each year, I end with a summary of my writing achievements and near-misses (I try not to class anything as a failure—except my one-time attempt at writing for children). I tend to start the new year with my targets for the year ahead, but it occurred to me to produce a mid-year summary.

This year has already served me with mixed fortunes in my writing.

Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller has for several reasons not developed as well as I would like, and will remain a Work in Progress.

Czech Mate, a second standalone thriller has likewise cost me time and effort but I’m unsatisfied with the direction—a second tale to leave on the back-burner.

One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is my next anthology of mixed-genre tales and they are coming along well. Several of the stories started life a long time ago—and we are talking years; not weeks or months. Due publication in summer/autumn 2018.

Lisa: and other short stories by C I Lopez was a collection I felt privileged to assist the author to produce. This is Carmen’s second selection of stories from her wide-ranging files full of short stories. As I did with her first anthology, I provided three ‘bonus’ tales to support the book. This author may be new to some of you, but her work is worth checking out.

 

Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey developed rapidly from two different ideas, and I believe it worked. In May 2018 it became my second erotica novel. As usual with this genre, good to see early sales, but reviews are hard to come by.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories is another by-product of not throwing away ideas and has resulted in the successful completion of my second erotic anthology. These tales have been redrafted several times over a long period. Publication – June 2018.

To find out more about my erotica work please visit: Tom Benson – Erotica

 

Paperback conversions had been beckoning me for a couple of years and I’m pleased I postponed the task—and a task is what it is. Of course, I’m suggesting that it’s hard work, but my intention was never to simply copy the eBook files and have a cover designed.

I reworked Amsterdam Calling from beginning to end and apart from reducing the word count and altering the style to cut dialogue tags, I believe the writing is an improvement. The cover was designed by my professional cover designer Aimee Coveney and made to measure.

Having learned many lessons, I followed up with Ten Days in Panama and performed the same disciplines. Once again the job took weeks rather than days, but the end product is pleasing to the eye—in my humble opinion.

What’s next?

I had intended the next paperback project to be the Beyond The Law trilogy, but again, for various reasons, I’m putting that job on hold. I may write a post in a few weeks to explain my rationale for those who are interested in such information.

A Life of Choice, my military, fact-based fiction series-novel is by far my most successful work to date. This story has resulted in my book sales being daily and not sporadic. My page reads (KENP), have for some months been in the thousands rather than the hundreds on a regular basis.

Requests to have the story in the paperback format are sent to me at least twice weekly, which to my way of thinking is a ‘demand’ worth meeting.

Again, it will not be a straightforward ‘conversion’ of digital to paperback. I will have five books to revise, but to make all five books worth the price set by Amazon I intend to move chapters to increase/decrease volumes to keep them at a uniform size—which is appropriate.

My poetry collections had never been a consideration for a paperback, until recently when I thought it might be a good idea to combine all five anthologies as a single bumper edition (250) of my rhyme. It will be a project to keep me occupied when I’m taking time out from other work.  

My writing journey began seriously in 2007. From the outset, although at first, they were of a low standard I dabbled in short story writing. I kept titles, ideas, introductions, passages and whole stories. As my writing has developed I revisit those old snippets and occasionally it takes only a title or a phrase I’ve used and I feel the urge to get a story written using those old fragments.

I am a great believer in a writer never throwing away material, and this has proved an asset and helped my steady production of titles.

During January 2018 I increased my Facebook visibility by creating Tom Benson – First Pages. My intention was always to attempt a daily post and when I felt the page was established, give publicity to other indie authors.

For three months I plugged away, highlighting an excerpt from one of my books. As April got underway I introduced Monday and Thursday as Review days to show my reviews of fellow indie authors’ work.

I don’t know how much notice is taken of the reviews I feature, but I have noted an uptake on my titles over this time. On week-ending 20th May, I stopped all activity on the page—my intention, to leave it dormant for one week. I’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

The internet and social networking are wonderful aspects of our modern world, but occasionally I indulge in a partial or complete detox. Over the past week I’ve deliberately kept a low profile and for me at least, it helps recharge my creative batteries.

Thank you in advance to all those who indulge me with a visit here.

Ten Days in Panama … in paperback

 

Ten Days in Panama was my second novel, and having first been marketed as a thriller, I amended the description to romance. The first publication of this title was in December 2013 and it’s had two makeovers since then in terms of the manuscript.

As I told my son when he left home to live abroad, ‘if we’re honest with ourselves, about every five years we think we know it all’.

In my humble opinion, the advice I gave that young man is never more accurate than with writers. We may write, revise, edit, rewrite, and so on, but if we go back to a piece of work we were proud of five years earlier, we’ll find things we want to amend. I’ve been plying my craft (and learning) since 2007, and it’s due to my targeting of a higher standard that I’ve delayed paperback editions until recently.

In Ten Days in Panama (paperback and digital), I’ve reduced the sexual content to a softer tone. If there are any readers out there who like my style and crave explicit sex scenes, check out Tom Benson – Erotica.

– The cover of the book is now brighter and I’ve reduced the strapline, and I believe in this case brevity works.

– For me, nothing has been more important or more of a challenge than tightening the manuscript to improve the reading experience. An example would be the removal of most dialogue tags, to be replaced by character activity.

It was a labour of love to produce this story the first time around, and I spent many months creating characters, situations and a story which would live on in the memory. I’m pleased to say that none of the original aspects of the tale has changed in the process.

To those who strive to maintain an updated and informative author website, you will appreciate the joy of adding a ‘paperback’ button to the page for a title. Now I have two of those buttons on display, and in the coming months, I’ll be working hard to add them to my other novels.

Thank you to all who pass by and take the time to leave their thoughts.

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*Remember, if you don’t want to buy a paperback and you don’t own a Kindle, the Kindle App UK is free and it can be downloaded to a PC/Laptop.

If you’re not in the UK, don’t feel left out … Kindle App (from Amazon.com)

 

Ten Days in … paperback … soon

 

A special place exists in my heart for this story for many reasons, but appropriately, it means a lot because it was my first attempt at romance.

I’ve spent a month working on the manuscript to convert it to a paperback. Fortunately, now that I’m retired, a month in writing terms doesn’t mean every odd hour I can squeeze in—it means an average eight-hour writing day; every day.

 

Why so long for a simple task?

Any author who has performed such a task will know the change from digital format to paper would normally be a case of rearranging the front and back matter. This story had already been subject to two makeovers since the original version in December 2013, but it needed a total overhaul.

The new version will have the same cover but with a revised strapline.

As in all aspects of life I felt I had evolved sufficiently as a writer to appreciate where I had got it right, and crucially—where I’d continued to get it wrong.

What’s different in the new edition?

My first pass was to print the manuscript and perform a brutal red-pen edit on hard copy.

Judging from many comments on Facebook and recent reviews, my style has changed, or as I like to think; improved.

a) I removed most of the dialogue tags and replaced them with character activity.

b) I amended the sexual scenes from what was bordering on ‘erotica’, and reduced it to ‘steamy romance’. For the most part, it is now closer to ‘romance’.

Suffice to say it’s been quite a journey. The characters continue to enjoy the story, but they’re subtle in what they tell the reader about their private moments together.

 

Okay, so why did I ‘reduce’ the level of sexual matter?

There were a number of reasons, but mainly, it didn’t belong. The story is a romance and not intended to perform the same role as strong erotica. As with a couple of my books I’ve been fortunate in hearing from readers privately, and more than one was concerned by explicit sex.

I enjoy writing in a wide variety of genre and just as I like to have guns, explosives and fights, I also like to write about tenderness, relationships and let’s face it—sex. 

My Tom Benson – Erotica site has now been up and running for a year, so if you’d like to see how I indulge my literary desire in that direction; take a look. The catalogue is growing steadily and the next erotic novel will be released in May 2018.

On the subject of releasing things, Ten Days in Panama (revised April 2018) is now available in eBook, and the paperback will be available within the month.

I’ve remained true to the original story with regard to character development and the plot.

It would be wrong not to say a public thank you to fellow author and distant friend, Carmen Lopez (author of Alone: and other short stories). We became acquainted through reviewing each other’s poetry on an international poetry site. I moved on into the world of short stories and novel writing, and Carmen performed the duties of being my first beta reader.

The inspiration for Ten Days in Panama evolved from learning about Carmen’s profession and where she lived. Indeed, the first cover for the book was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce.

For anybody who is now so excited that they can’t wait for the paperback, here are links to the digital version of Ten Days in Panama:

Amazon preview/buy                      BookLinker – Universal

Thank you as always to those who stop by.

Amsterdam Calling – with options

There is no excuse for not reading certain books and Amsterdam Calling is now included in that ‘certain’ category. It matters not if you use a smartphone, eReader, computer screen or prefer to handle a physical book — the options are all there. If you have a Kinde eReader you can even read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited.

As the author it’s not for me to say whether it’s a good story, but here is the selection of review excerpts I’ve included on the back cover. I’m delighted to say that the reviews are by three exceptional authors: Lesley Hayes, Patrick Christopher Power, and Barbara Fagan Speake.

Research in Amsterdam

The seed was sown by my distant friend and fellow author, Carmen Lopez. She suggested my knowledge of Amsterdam and its many attractions would lend itself to a good story. In the latter part of 2012, the first notes were made, hundreds of photographs perused and a simple plot devised. A few weeks later I had the makings of a thriller, but as an author will tell you, strong characters have a way of messing with your head; and your story idea.

By the spring of 2013, my tale was a romance with thriller undertones, so thanks for that, Dan and Crystal, (the main characters).

The final version took a year of rewrites, double-checking of facts, emails to businesses and reaching up to pull out hair that was no longer there. Amsterdam Calling was no longer one of several optional title ideas and a hard-fought manuscript. By the summer of 2014, it was an eBook.

This year, having revised all of my books at least twice I was prepared to do so again, starting with Amsterdam Calling. After all, the paperback version was going to be more expensive and I wanted them to look professional in every respect. My aim was to deal with formatting so I purchased the Vellum program. I asked Aimee Coveney a professional cover designer to deal with the solution for the exterior of the paperback. I gave myself a target of four weeks for completion, and that was how long it took.

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It was halfway through my final year at school, in May of 1966, the Beatles released what was to become one of my favourite tracks – Paperback Writer. I recall there was a big football tournament on TV at the time, but it took second place to my loves of music and reading. It would take a little over fifty years before I fulfilled my dream and published a paperback.

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My creative writing commenced in earnest in 2007, so I spent ten years working at my craft and only publishing eBooks. For the past two years I’ve suggested I’d get into paperback versions of my books, but each time I’ve started work on the project it’s been postponed to write more stories.

To see this story in paperback is a thrill, and sales are being made which is heartwarming, but unlike many authors, I have something else which will give me a buzz. In the summer I’ll be heading to Amsterdam, so I’ll be taking a few copies of the book; gifts for people who gave me permission to use their enterprises in the story.

I’ll leave you with useful links in case you’re one of those yet to find a comfortable way to read this story:

Amazon Preview/Buy      Amazon Paperback      BookLinker Global

You’ll notice in the graphic of the paperbacks, I finally have the excuse to make bookmarks. They’re double-sided and laminated, which means anybody who uses one won’t forget what I write and where to find my books.

As always, thank you for reading my post, and those of you who do; my books.