Beyond a title …

 

The Red Pen is mightier ...
The Red Pen is mightier …

I wrote in a blog post early in 2015 of my intention to revisit all my novels. As any writer will know, it is not a decision taken lightly. Once underway, the task becomes an obsession. Lifestyle is affected, and so too are social media habits. Other writing projects are sidelined, but the focus must remain on the primary issue – improvement of the target title.

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Since my intentions were stated last year, I’ve revisited four of my titles. Two have had a few hundred superfluous words removed, and two titles have been amended with subtle touches – and have now been categorised as ‘Romance’ rather than ‘Thriller’.

I accepted at the outset my greatest challenge would be to work on my top-selling title – Beyond The Law: Formation. (Originally titled, Beyond The Law)

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Beyond The Law: Formation

I believe a brief history will demonstrate how important this project was for me.

May 2008 – I introduced Phil McKenzie (Hawk) as an action character in a poem. I followed this rhyme with another and built a series of 30 poems about Hawk.

Nov 2011 – I used my ‘Hawk’ poetry series to write a novel in a month in the NaNoWriMo. The story consisted of 56,000 words.

Oct 2013 – Following 18 months of writing and rewriting, I published Beyond The Law. The tale had expanded to a staggering 154,000 words.

(At time of writing this post, it continues to be my top-selling title.)

Aug 2016 – The revised version is now available, and is now supported by Beyond The Law: Retribution, the second tale in the trilogy.

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Why affect the length if the book sells?

I’ve since written more books, and as all writers find, I am improving my appreciation of what is good, and what is better. I regularly check out the ‘do and don’t’ articles, and I recognised a few issues from my past writing.

Over-description (flowery language), passive dialogue, procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and a few other odd words which are best left in the brain, not on the page.

Where did I find my list of procrastinators, idlers, etc.?

At this point I’d like to mention, and say a public thank you to Kelly Hartigan. I haven’t used Kelly’s professional editing services yet, but I am a keen follower of her wisdom. To find out about those groups of words I’ve mentioned, and to gain an insight into Kelly’s valuable tips and suggestions please visit:

Kelly Hartigan – website

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How have I amended Beyond The Law: Formation?

1. I removed the unnecessary words as detailed above (procrastinators, idlers, and so on).

2. I tightened the dialogue, and many dialogue tags, without altering what was said.

3. I located and amended passive voice, to active voice.

4. I located and amended a few cases of ‘head-hopping’ (changed Point of View). Okay, in this case there weren’t many, because I tend to hold a POV within a scene. If I want to change the POV, I change scene, usually by using a centrally-positioned asterisk, instead of a line-break.

5. I referred to all reviews, made notes of points raised, and made minor adjustments where necessary.

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How long did it take to perform this edit?

Six weeks. Apart from a couple of breaks of three or four days, it was constant, hard work.

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What is the end result?Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

I trimmed 28,500 words from the manuscript, which began with 154,500 words.

The story is now 125,000 words, supported by 1,500 words used for back pages information on other titles.

I believe I’ve improved a story I already liked.

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Will I go on to perform the same ritual with my other titles?

Yes, all of them, and I’ll take each one on a slimming exercise. It’s not such a daunting task, because I’ve dealt with my longest book, so the others will feel less arduous.

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Why should I bother?

1 – I’d like my readership to get the best deal possible, and ‘the best deal’ isn’t only about the price, it’s also about the story, and the quality of writing.

2 – My intention is to produce my titles in paperback, but to ensure I’m able to use the same profile and book dimensions I must keep my word count down. In my eBooks for example, I give a blurb for each of my titles at the back of every book. These will be reduced to a list of titles by genre.

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A side effect of my efforts has been the relegation of my other projects. I will now work to complete three of the four other titles, but my next collection of short stories will be postponed until at least December 2016/January 2017.

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If you haven’t read Beyond The Law: Formation, the revised edition is available.

BookLinker

Amazon Preview/Buy

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts, theories and ramblings. All feedback is welcome.

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Erotica: The Long and Short of it … Part 3 of 3

 

Give & Take 150516
FREE  weekend on Amazon –  Sat 30th / Sun 31st July 2016

In Part 1, I wrote about the titles and general description of my work in this genre.

In Part 2, I moved on to how I found myself venturing into this area of creative writing.

I’d like to use this final article to go under the covers ….

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In the wake of Romance, the Erotica genre is the next big thing – in regard to sales. For this reason alone, it’s not surprising writers of other genres attempt erotica, and it might be why their trials are published with a pseudonym.

Many writers try producing this special genre. Having read widely in the indie and the traditionally published sectors, I’ve discovered a wide range of ability.

We all think we know what goes on behind closed doors, but how much of our ‘knowledge’ is actually supposition, imagination, or guesswork?

The first aspect of this topic to put to bed (pun intended), is about how wonderful other people’s sex lives are. We could look at examples, but in reality there are too many variables to examine sex life.

I’ll list a few examples to prove the point:

1. A person who has no sexual experience, but has read a few books which suggest sex should be enjoyed by anybody with anybody, doing anything. I remember a girl from my early 20’s who earned the nickname ‘Martini’. If you’re not old enough to remember the TV ad, the slogan was: ‘any time, any place, anywhere ….’

2. A person of limited sexual experience, but read widely, and is eager to try anything once.

3. A person who enjoys the early years of marriage, where there has been an occasional hot night between the sheets. Lifestyle calmed and the bedroom became a place for two things; frustration, or boredom – or both.

4. An older person who has been in a relationship for 50 years, had a lot of varied experiences before marriage, and has for far too long settled into a mundane ‘get it over with’ mindset.

5. A person in a long-term relationship, but is with a partner who has no desire to ‘experiment’. Opportunities may not have been taken when younger, and now one partner may spend time wondering about activities found in books, but never tried.SS2 - Coming Around 150516

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What must a writer consider when publishing erotica?

Instead of producing a text-book answer, I’ll list a few of my personal criteria.

1. It is erotica, but it should not only be about the sex – a plot should exist.

2. I avoid sexual taboos, which I don’t believe have to be listed. If you have any doubts what is considered ‘taboo’ in erotic literature – use a search engine.

3. Colloquialisms for body parts and activities read better than creating a biology lesson with an underlying story.

4. Consent – or a fair idea of what is ahead is my preference. If a character sounds as if they didn’t know what they were getting into – or what was getting into them – it’s not non-consensual or innocence; it’s naivity.

5. Exceptional hygiene standards and preparation are occasionally mentioned in passing.

I have other minor points I keep in mind, but the aforementioned are the main ones.

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Highland Games - 1 - CougarWhich erotica appeals to me?

I enjoy the tale if I find myself consumed by the story, embracing the characters (metaphorically), and reading for the story – not the genre.

Which erotica irritates or alienates me?

When the language used is stilted, and the body parts and activities are like a sex education class for those who speak English as a second language.

When the situation and dialogue is contrived and the ‘story’ goes from dialogue to action in an unrealistic time scale.

Two-dimensional characters usually combined with little or no back-story.

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Where do I go from here with my titles?

I have erotica poetry within my Love and Romance volume, short stories in Coming Around: and other erotic stories and my novel Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica.

Highland Games is the series title of my erotica novellas. My first tale is an introduction to the series and the main location. In each successive book I aim to explore a different aspect of sexuality. As I do with all of my work, I’ll be taking note of feedback, and I’ll adjust my writing if there is good reason.

Coming soon ...
Coming soon …

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Thank you for taking the time to read my posts, and particular thanks to those of you kind enough to leave your thoughts. I appreciate all feedback.

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As a reward for your kindness, I’ll remind you my novel, Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica is FREE on Amazon over the weekend Saturday 30th July / Sunday 31st July 2016.

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Erotica: The Long and Short of it … Part 2 of 3

SS2 - Coming Around 150516
Click graphic to Preview

 

My first article in this mini-series looked at what I’ve written and published in the erotica genre. As a refresher, it explains I’ve written poetry, short stories, and a novel. It also highlights my latest venture – I’m underway with a series of novellas.

This second post is an insight into why I decided to get involved in this area of creative writing. Reading erotica isn’t for everybody, and having read comments from writers who can spin a great yarn, I know the writing of erotica isn’t for everybody either.

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In closing Part 1, I promised the whys and wherefores of my interest.

I first dabbled in literary titillation when I was experimenting with poetry. I’d written about natural history, the military life, thrillers, reincarnation, romance, and a few odd pieces where I introduced humour. It was when I wrote about relationships I found I had to move on from the meeting, and the dialogue.

Surely as the romance deepened it would be natural to move on to action?

It took several attempts before I produced anything I’d post on the poetry website, which had guidelines on ‘acceptable’ content for any genre.

My erotica poetry started out like sexual foreplay. The hints were in there, a bit of teasing of what might come, and I took it forward with visual appreciation, dialogue, romance, titillation, and finally action. I received several compliments on my efforts and I was glad I’d tried.

An excerpt from ‘Our First Time’ (Poetry Vol 2 – Love and Romance) Click graphic to Preview

 

In the background I had already started playing around with the concept of short stories, and I’d tried a variety of genre. The prompt to try my hand at erotica came from a fellow poet. The lady wrote well, which was why I was delighted to have public praise from her on my widely varying poetic efforts. As I developed my verse, this lady was particularly impressed with my erotica and wrote me a private message to let me know.

A couple of private messages later there was a request for me to write an erotica short story. It wasn’t for general consumption, but for my secret fan, who said she’d be willing to critique the finished product. I obliged and produced a story which she liked, and it was followed by a few others. We’re no longer in regular contact, but I get an occasional message to let me know she reads all my work.

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I was keen to write romance, adventure and thrillers, which were the genre I read. As I increased my selection of reading material, I selected the first in the ‘Fifty Shades …’ series. Suffice to say I wasn’t impressed by either the writing or the content. I wrote a review which appears here: Fifty Shades – a review.

Having had my interest piqued by the popularity of something so badly written, I downloaded erotica eBooks by both male and female authors. It should be remembered at this point, a high number of authors in this genre use a pseudonym. I found several areas of concern in my research of erotica storytelling.

1. A lot of the ‘books’ purporting to be erotica are neither erotica, nor stories, but a series of scenes involving two or more people in sexual activity.

2. Many of these titles are badly written in the extreme, but the worst are usually spotted in their short sample available on Amazon.

3. A personal gripe is the ‘author’ who produces a badly written, short book, and compounds those two factors by over-pricing.

Is there anything worse?

Yes, sadly, a few of them go on to write a ‘series’. I detected many of these by the rapid turnaround of the ‘next in the series’ being produced a month after the previous title.

Having read several erotica titles covering a wide range of sexual orientation I can tell who knows their subject, and who uses vague descriptions.

What’s the difference?

Put simply, it’s the difference between saying ‘The man had a gun.’ or, ‘Dan carried his Browning 9mm automatic.’

I’ve read samples which have had me shake my head because they’re so awful, and I’ve seen eBooks which made me smile – because the cover, title, length, sample, and price were so bad. It takes imagination to believe the author is serious.

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Coming soon ...
Coming soon …

There we have it faithful followers. I was erotica curious, and tried my hand. I believe I’m making progress, and my titles have positive reviews. I am still experimenting to some extent, but I work on the premise my finished titles should have a story, and the books should be written and formatted with the same care given to any other genre.

In the final part of this insight I will take you under the covers, and we’ll look at the detail.

Thank you for reading my offerings, and any comments are welcome as always.

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Erotica: The Long and Short of it … Part 1 of 3

 

Poetry Vol 2 - 150516

Like it or loathe it – erotica is one of the oldest genres of storytelling. You can dress it up (no pun intended), in a pretty cover, or go black cover with a suggestive title, but the introduction of the eReader has enabled many people to indulge and enjoy the reading of sexual adventures which had previously been so near … yet, so far.

The erotica eBook market is a gift to those who would have looked at titles in a bookstore, but never lifted the book. In many cases it would be due to the books being out of reach. Peer pressure, embarrassment, upbringing, or whatever reason might have stopped thousands of folk from buying into this area of reading, but no more.

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What is the appeal to a reader?

Two areas come to mind, although there are more.SS2 - Coming Around 150516

1. For those who have, or have so far had a less than adventurous sex life it gives an insight to how things might be, even in the imagination. We can all dream.

2. The erotica eBook opens doors (mainly bedroom doors), and it allows the voyeuristic aspect of our nature a little exercise.

‘I don’t have a voyeuristic aspect …’

‘I just love the stories …’

‘It’s porn in words …’

Whatever your attitude to it, I’m here to tell you I enjoy reading it (if it’s well written), and I enjoy writing it too. Yes, I’m still in the early days in writing the genre, but for me, it gives the same release of imagination other writers have when working on paranormal, historic romance, or any other specialised topic.

I will continue to write thrillers and romance, but I’m unashamedly erotica-curious. I have a strong desire to explore erotica, and I’d like to see which type of writing works best.

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Highland Games - 1 - CougarI produced a few pieces of erotica in my Love and Romance poetry volume. My short story collection Coming Around: and other erotica stories is popular, although only a handful of brave people have cared to leave a review – but they’re good reviews, so I’m delighted.

My debut erotica novel Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica sells on a regular basis, but again sadly isn’t supported by many reviews.

It was while considering story length it occurred to me to produce a hybrid – the erotica novella. Thus far I have one title out there, but I’ve already made notes towards the others in what will be a minimum five-part series.

How do I intend to capture and hold interest with the series?

Each of the stories will be based in the location which is introduced in the first novella Highland Games – 1, but as the series progresses I’ll concentrate on a different angle of sexual persuasion.

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What’s coming next in this three-part post?Give & Take 150516

In the second part of this article I’ll explain the whys and wherefores of me getting into bed with this genre. At the end of Part 2 I’ll give you a hint of what’s coming in Part 3.

If you’ve taken anything from this first part (other than the links to my books), I’m certain you’ll enjoy how I first discovered my desire to experiment … and later in Part 3, we’ll go under the covers, or between the sheets if you prefer.

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Why so … series?

 

Like so many creative writers, by the time I completed my first novel, Ten Days in Panama, I had grown to know my characters as if they were real people. A few of those people would be good to look at, and to have around, but like reality, others were not so endearing.

In my next big story, Beyond The Law: Formation, I had learned more about my craft and the characters became better developed much faster. I spent longer in their company, and each visit was like getting together with a few old friends.Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

When I wrote my sequel, Beyond The Law: Retribution, I got back together with characters with whom I was well-acquainted, and I enjoyed the process of the story from the outset.

BTL RetributionIt was less frustrating when the storyline veered away from my intended direction. I was also forgiving of issues as they arose. I was still the puppeteer, but in some mysterious way I had been pulled into the scenes, conversations, and struggles.

I left those characters behind to get on with other projects, but I’ve been drawn back, so among other things, I’m presently working on the final story in the trilogy, Beyond The Law: Consequences.Novel - BTL 3 Consequences

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As with poetry when I started writing, I’ve come to realise I enjoy the familiar company of certain characters, and in recent times it occurred to me to take the series idea to a new level.

A Life of Choice - Part OneFor many years I’d worked on my autobiography, but it was never fully satisfying, so rewrite after rewrite left me feeling empty. There were too many anecdotes to include, because it made the story too big, but many which were so peculiar they refused to be excluded.

Apart from anything else, even if it was fact-based-fiction, which point of view would work best?

From this train of thought evolved A Life of Choice, a fact-based-fiction novel in five parts, but each part a generous size. I’m not interested in writing a handful of short books to top up my catalogue. To date, I have the first two parts published, and Part Three will arrive in the autumn.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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I dabbled in the writing of erotica and enjoyed it, so I wondered how best to continue. I compiled a collection of short stories which was well received, so I followed it with a novel. It too received positive feedback.

How could I achieve a hybrid, I wondered?

My foray into the novella length is how I’m heading. It will be a series of inter-related stories, each longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. The novella series will start with Highland Games – 1. By mid-June I’ll be looking for beta readers for this first story.

Due to it being erotica, anyone who volunteers will remain anonymous if requested.

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The answer to the question in this blog post title, ‘Why so … series?’

By creating a series of three, five, or more stories which are interconnected – I can enjoy the company and emotions of characters I’ve come to know better than some of the real people in my life.Highland Games 1 - 150516

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I’ve learned during my reading and writing journey, in the case of some authors a series can be a method of continuing a story for the benefit of a readership. It can be a way of increasing sales by producing a series of extremely short stories, and I’m fine with either of those ideas. However, there are some series which are too short in quantity, and lacking in quality, but these are measures we find in every part of our lives.

Any books I produce as part of a series will be produced with the same care and attention to detail I devote to my other writing. I will strive to make every book a standalone, but without irritating anybody who’s read the earlier work. If I ever come up short, I can only hope it’s because a reader has a personal issue, and not because of the writing.

For me so far, writing about characters beyond a first story has produced the joy of writing about people I’ve become close to, and after the realities of life, my characters are great companions. They won’t let me down. If they do – I’ll kill them. 🙂

Thank you for reading.

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The Title Fight

 

The First Sixteen (2)
So many titles fighting to be the chosen one ….

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Writers by nature will read an abundance of ‘top tips’ on their craft.

Is it because we all want to be the best?

Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2
An individual story title, which is itself a well-known phrase.

I would suggest not. Whatever our reasons for writing, I believe the majority of us read top tips to improve our craft.

We don’t want to be the one whom everybody else is calling ‘comma man’, or ‘she who loves exclamation marks!!!

The driving force for us is to write, followed by the desire to do so to the best of our ability.

Some of us will work tirelessly, aiming to improve with every sentence, paragraph, chapter, and ultimately book – or title.

We are in this strange world through personal choice. We learn through comments, suggestions, tips, textbooks, and sheer hard work. We want what works best on several levels.

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Titles are right up there in the ‘top tips’.

Personally, I’ve given up on the 1,001 theories. For example: Should we avoid anything which sounds like a famous book or film? Should we use a cliché? Should we use one word, or a phrase? The list of methods is endless.

TomB4
The basis of the story

In the end, it is an individual choice.

Take for example the title of this article. I’ve checked over many hundreds of blog posts and found there is little correlation between the day an article is posted and its success.

Where have I found the most comments, or most success?

Yes, for me, the secret is in a catchy title.

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When I choose a title for a poem, short story, or novel it sometimes takes longer than the piece of work. I can end up with a considerable list, but the deliberation is worthwhile.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t change the title of any of my individual short stories or books, because I spent so long getting to the end result.

This blog post is an exception, because I came up with the title first.

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick
A series title with a meaningful sub-title for each part.

For my various books I’ve tried to use a title which would work without a book cover. I know it will sound strange if you’re a writer, because we constantly discuss how important the cover is for a book.

What about a blind or partially-sighted person who judges by what they hear?

They might depend on ‘hearing’ the book. They’ll hear a list of titles, and they’ll hear the blurbs, but they might never ‘see’ the cover, so it becomes meaningless.

I want my titles to convey an image before the cover is created.

You’ll have seen notes under the books I’ve chosen to highlight in this article. Clicking on these graphics will take you to the book’s page.

If you’ve read this far I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my theories, and perhaps you’ll take something away from here.

Highland Games - 1 (2)
A play on words, using a euphemism for the new novella series.

I thank you for seeing the title of the post and taking an interest.

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May … I continue with projects

 

In the next few days I’ll be reading / reviewing which will take me to a new month.

May update - five

As this year got underway I made a list of ten targets, so I thought with one third of the year out of the way I’d revisit my list to check progress. As I hit 2016 the five titles above were at various stages of completion.

1. Publication of A Life of Choice: Part One – job done and, now has reviews.

2. Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm (Mali) Beadle – a detailed critique / suggested edits which took a couple of weeks. Manuscript is now back with Mali being redrafted.

3. Revision of my present novels – Ten Days in Panama – job done and, now appearing on Amazon categorised under Romance.

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

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

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What else is going on?

Since January, apart from my personal workload and, working on Mali’s book, for fellow authors I’ve beta read three short stories and, two novels.

A Life of Choice - Part TwoA Life of Choice: Part Two is in the final stages. I’ve heard from one beta reader and, in the next couple of days I’ll hear from the other, who is one of our IASD authors. I’ve printed the manuscript and, by the coming weekend I’ll be performing a red-pen edit, line by line.

  • No music and, no interruptions.
  • As usual it will be me, the manuscript, the red pen, my perpetual diary, character profiles, cast of characters, a plentiful supply of black coffee and, a notepad for worries, queries and, thoughts.

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Did I mention I’ve set up two more pages on Facebook?

I set them up without any grandstanding to see if anybody would come across them and, I’m delighted to report I’ve got a couple of likes by IASD members and it’s much appreciated. I’d noticed several authors had set up pages for individual novels, but I decided to go with my writing categories. I now have:

Tom Benson – Writer

Tom Benson – Short Stories

Tom Benson – Poetry

Tom Benson – Erotica

I look at extra Facebook pages as a passive marketing tool. I may not produce many regular entries on them, but they’ll add to my online presence. I felt I needed to demonstrate diversity by not using a single page with disparate genre spread throughout. Temptation (2)

As ever, I’ve got projects listed in my Work in Progress section. Some of these ideas have been planned for a while, but now I’ve added a new and, for me, exciting project. If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to look for the clue.

One of my latest projects is Temptation: and other stories. It will be another collection of short stories, but with an open theme.

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I’ve now decided the Beyond The Law series will end as a trilogy. The original idea was intended as a single story. I like to think of it as my signature style and, I don’t want the stories to become formulaic. The original tale is re-titled as Beyond The Law: Formation, the second is Beyond The Law: Retribution and, the final title will be Beyond The Law: Consequences. A lot of background material has been written and, the story will start taking shape in the summer.

Beyond The Law - pair

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Following the successful conversion of Ten Days in Panama to the Romance genre, I am intending to perform a similar conversion with Amsterdam Calling. Once again, there will be little change to the storyline, but I know where it needs to be adjusted.

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I’ve now made inroads into my two short stories for IASD anthologies. For the Indies for Charity anthology my story will be Taken for a Ride. My story for the Horror anthology will be Dark Places.

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I’ve got a bit of reading, reviewing and, writing to do guys, so if you’ll excuse me … oh, and, thank you for dropping by. It is much appreciated.

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Happy New Writing Year!

Ten Titles minus oneI’ve left behind a year which felt productive from beginning to end.
My primary objective for 2016 is that it will be at least as fulfilling as last year.
I will continue to deal with my Work in Progress (WIP) simultaneously, and in that way each project will feel fresh at every session.

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What’s on in 2016 for Tom Benson – Author?

1  Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3  Revision of each of my present novels.

Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories, my next anthology

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

Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using Create Space

8  Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

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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Tom’s blog post – Supplementary

A Life of Choice - Part OneMy aim is to publish A Life of Choice – Part One by Sunday 10th January.

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Codename: Koki is the debut novel by Malcolm Beadle. He is fellow writer and friend who is more comfortable scriptwriting, which is why he needs support to edit and fine-tune his first action thriller. Malcolm has a direct and entertaining storytelling style.

Provisional cover idea
Provisional cover idea

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As mentioned in a blog post last year, I intend to visit each of my present novels in the order they were published. My intention is to revise each book, but using the reviews as my guide. I will amend the book covers as I complete the revisions.

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IASD - globe 2The IASD website / blog is now fit for purpose, but we are going to introduce new ideas and aim to achieve regular interaction for our members and visitors.

The Admin team will be driving the changes, but from this point onward, guided by the comments, suggestions and support of the whole group. There will be more on an update in January.

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I’ve got some serious work ahead of me now, so I will thank you for dropping by and any comments.

Let’s get reading, reviewing, and writing!

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2015 – A Year of Writing

 

Like many other writers, I enjoy turning a fresh page, whether it be reading, writing, or turning that page metaphorically. As we approach another year end / beginning, I’m taking a look back at my targets for 2015.

Firsts for 2015

I published A Taste of Honey in December 2014, so I was delighted to begin my new writing year with great reviews of my latest title.

In that happy frame of mind, I set myself the following aims:

1.  Update the ‘back pages’ information in all of my books.
2.  Read and review more work by the members of the IASD writing group.
3.  Step in quietly and offer assistance to new / novice writers wherever possible.
4.  Update my author website, creative writer and artist website, and this blog.
5.  Attempt a book or series for children.
6.  Write a new novel.
7.  Write a sequel to one of my present novels.
8.  Write another anthology of short stories.
9.  Work harder at my ongoing project of my fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story.
10. Work hard to make my blog topics interesting.

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How did I do with my ten general topics?

1.  I updated the information for the back pages of my published titles, and set out a standard document to make the process simpler as I moved forward.

2.  I read and reviewed 15 books in the IASD.

3.  I’ve given assistance to three novice authors directly from our group. At the time of writing I am editing a fellow writer’s debut novel. I’ll be formatting the finished manuscript, and producing the cover for him in 2016.

4.  I updated my two personal websites and my blog, and in an ongoing effort to streamline and improve them, I’ve gone on to overhaul my secondary website and this blog twice more within the past year.

5.  On my first attempt at writing for children, I failed on several levels, but rather than dwell on a specialised genre where I recognise I don’t belong, I decided to leave the genre to those who write it well.

6.  A fresh novel was beginning to look like another thriller, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and based on the success of my erotica anthology – I wrote a novel in the same genre.

In September, I published Give & Take: a Tale of Erotica.

7.  My first sequel saw the light of day, after a lot of procrastination, planning, and hard work – and then of course it was rewritten several times.

In November, I published Beyond The Law: Retribution.

8.  I started the year with three ideas for an anthology, and following the offer of including work by guest authors, the anthology was eventually created.

In December, I published, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, a collection of 15 stories, six of which are from guest authors.

9.  My fact-based fiction novel is now taking shape as my first attempt at a series. It is presently intended to be a five-part story. The first book is ready to be formatted.
A Life of Choice – Part One will be published on Amazon in January 2016.

10. I’ve written blog articles on marketing, blogging, writing anthologies, and a few other topics. My official followers have now risen to the dizzy heights of 170+.

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What else have I been up to?

writingmagazineI had an article in Writing Magazine in March, highlighting my writing successes to date.

I wrote Goals, a short story for the charity anthology, You’re Not Alone, being produced by Ian D Moore. Stories from 28 members of the IASD were included and it went live on Amazon in July. Book cover - You're Not Alone

I wrote Faith, Hope, and Charity, a short story for Holes, an IASD anthology produced by Eric Lahti, as a marketing tool for our members.

Holes snip

I wrote the poem Whisper Wood, for inclusion in a children’s anthology of stories and poetry being produced by Sylva Fae. The collection will be published in 2016.

I’ve been interviewed by Christoph Fischer, and had a Recommended Read award from Patrick (Max) Power.   Max Pwr Rec Read

Since October, I’ve been working hard on the IASD website with fellow Admin guys, Paul Ruddock and Ian D Moore. The restructuring is complete and the new, improved version of our website will be posted for public viewing in January, complete with our first Featured Author of 2016.

IASD - globe 2I’ve signed up to another couple of websites too, but whether they will prove useful in the long run is hard to predict.

My most recent trial has been signing up to BookLinker. This is a site where a regular Amazon URL can be transformed into a ‘universal’ link. I’ve been using the links on Facebook and I’ll be reporting my findings in January 2016.

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That’s about it for this year, so I’d like to say a sincere thank you to all who have played a part in my writing journey over the past 12 months, whether it be in buying my titles, reviewing, offering advice, reading my blog, or any number of other things.

Have a great end to the holiday season, thank you for checking out my scribbles again, and I’ll see you all in 2016 with a new set of projects.

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Refreshing …

Banner 151115It might not appear so at first, but ‘refreshing’ items for a writer is a wide and varied area of responsibility. Refreshment is important – because it is for the writer’s personal benefit.

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Let’s make a list …
1.     Project list
2.    Website, blog, and social networks
3.    Personal bio and author photo
4.    Book covers
5.    Book supplementary content
6.    Book pricing
7.    Appointments
8.    To be Read (TBR)
9.    Work in Progress (WIP)
10.  Take regular breaks

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1.  Project List                                                      

As a priority, we must strive to maintain separate writing and domestic ‘to do’ lists.

A good way to deal with this is to differentiate between domestic and writing.

Refer to domestictasks,’ but writing ‘projects’.

In the domestic tasks list add in a heading – Writing Projects. To the right is an example of my present Writing Projects.

It’s a good reminder to treat it as a different part of the writer’s life.

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2.  Website, blog and social networks

In my articles I use my projects to give examples, and this is a recurring project for me.

Update one ... update all
Update one … update all

I write an update for my author website every week. I write an update for my secondary website every month, and I write a blog post when a relevant topic comes to mind – like this one.

Remember if you have an Amazon Author Page – update it too. If you haven’t got one – get one organised.

In the last few weeks I’ve completely overhauled my secondary website and it’s had a few compliments. I’ve also given this blog a facelift and consolidated the main menu.

I updated my two Amazon Author pages, and my profiles at Bookbub, Independent Author Network, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. A few weeks ago I ditched my LinkdIn account.

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3.  Personal Bio and author photo

Here are items that many writers have issues producing. My suggestion would be to read up on the topic, and compose a bio. I have different bios, because I’ve found it useful. One is 50 words – when brevity is required, another is 100 words, which is sufficient to create a good personal writing history.

In my opinion, the bio for a website can afford to be longer, depending on the purpose of the website. A key point to keep in mind is – your writing bio should be clearly about your writing history and accomplishments – it is not about your granny, your rabbits, or your last holiday abroad.

If you’d like your writing to be taken seriously, take your profile and author photo seriously. My bios are both less than one month old, and my present photo is three months old. I don’t go to the extent of a ‘professional’ photo, but I trawl through several recent shots to get the best I can – and in cases like mine, that can be a task!

Practise your bio and give yourself a word limit. Produce two, three, or four so they can be adapted for a variety of purposes. If in doubt, send a copy to a fellow author you trust and ask for an opinion.

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4.  Book Covers 

 Was ... and ... Now
Was … and … Now

If you have a title out there which isn’t performing well, but has had a handful of good reviews, the lack of performance could be down to many things, among which is the cover – if you have any doubt – change it.

A few days ago I changed the cover of one of my books because it was stagnating. Within 48 hours of changing the cover, it sold again.

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5.  Book Supplementary Info

From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution
From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution

In the back pages of all of my eBooks I have supplementary information which includes: a short bio, and other titles.

We must ensure our bio is updated in all of our work as we produce another title, and we must ensure our latest title has all the others at the back.

Why at the back?

If you’ve published an eBook it will give more of a sample for prospective readers (customers), and the information is irrelevant if the prospective reader doesn’t buy.

This is marketing by stealth.

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6.  Book Pricing

Yes, we all love writing and we’d do it even if we weren’t paid. The flip-side of the coin is – while we can be paid, we don’t want to lose out. I abide by certain simple rules.

I have several titles out there covering a variety of genre and types of writing. I don’t consider myself a household name, so I price my work accordingly. Don’t set a high price on your first book, and don’t think a few five star reviews means you’ve made it and you can ask whatever price you like.

Keep in mind, there are thousands of e-Reader users who only download books which are free, or up to a certain price. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘everyone has their price’, and it’s no different in the world of eBooks.

A few days ago I amended my pricing across the entire range of my catalogue. Always remember, it’s better to get 100 shares of a low price – rather than 2 shares of a high price.

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7. Appointments

Whether you made them or somebody else made them – keep them. At one end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be the date you’ve set to promote a book with a low price. At the other end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be a phone call or meeting with somebody who can influence your success – or failure.

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8. To be Read (TBR)

I’m well known for my methodical approach. Tom's Kindle

On my Kindle I have a TBR – 1, and a TBR – 2. Apart from those, I have a TBR diary/journal which has all of the TBR 1 and 2 listed with genre and author name.

TBR – 1 is my priority list for reading and reviewing. TBR – 2 is my list of titles which I’ve collected as a matter of interest, but I’m in no hurry to get to them. Using my TBR journal I can decide which genre to switch to after a recent read. I tend never to read and review the same genre twice in succession.

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9.  Work in Progress (WIP)

When did you last look at your list of WIP?

I know there are many, who do as I do and work on various projects simultaneously, but we must set ourselves a time to remind ourselves what else we have and any ‘due dates’.

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10. Take regular breaks

Yes, obvious isn’t it – but do you do it?

I work in retail part-time, so many of my days are hard-working, writing days. I enjoy a coffee while I work, but I am disciplined regarding breaks.

On an average writing day: By 7am – I’m already writing. By 10am – I’ve taken out an hour to deal with my first pass on social networking, so I take a 15-minute break (away from my writing). At 12noon – it’s lunch-time (for one hour).

At 3pm – I take my 15-minute afternoon break, and if my head isn’t in another world, I make a second pass on my social networking. At around 6 – 6.30pm I stop for dinner. I make a third pass on social networking in the evening.

Yes, that is the perfect day, but there are anomalies. I have the occasional coffee while I work. I will invariably come back to writing for an hour or two in the late evening, and I occasionally use a ‘break’ to catch up with social networking.

My fuel tank ... and a message.
My fuel tank … and a message.

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So my friends there we have it – we all need some refreshment in our writing lives.

I hope I’ve reminded, educated or inspired in some small way. As always, comments are appreciated and all will be acknowledged.

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