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.
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.
Have you ever considered producing an anthology of short stories?
Perhaps you’ve written short stories and never considered creating a collection, or you’re a novelist who shuns the short story discipline to concentrate on longer work.
My first anthology was a project, a challenge, a dream, and a nightmare all before it became a reality.
I’d written numerous short stories and won competitions, but Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories was my first foray into compiling an anthology. Should I aim for a theme or go multi-genre? Is it best to go with a complete set of original work or include something which has been commended? Go it alone or ask other people to donate a story?
The questions pile up about ten seconds after the decision to tackle such a project.
I’m pleased to report that stories from that first collection are still referred to in reviews, which is heartwarming. It is also a testament to the credibility of the stories and justifies their inclusion. I’ve now compiled seven anthologies including The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories created by inviting other authors to join me.
When I compiled ‘The Welcome’ it was never about earning money, it was always intended as a platform for fellow authors from the IASD and me to get examples of our work out there. No, the collection hasn’t made me a millionaire although the book continues to sell the occasional copy. Thanks to Amazon’s peculiar attitude to customers spending a set amount of money before being allowed to comment, there are now fewer reviews being posted.
I suppose I should come clean and admit that if you’re a multi-genre author like me there is a constant need to work on a new anthology. If writing short stories appeals to you then the next logical step must be producing a range of your work instead of keeping it aside waiting for the opportunity a competition offers.
Would you prefer to keep all the stories in one genre, or might you find it easier to mix the genre?
The two main routes to go are theme-based or genre-based, and then, of course, you can go it alone or invite work from others. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to hone your writing skills.
The key, as with all writing projects is the desire to take on the mission.
If you are more inclined to work on novels, you’ll appreciate that your manuscript needs some downtime, and one of the most useful ways of dealing with this I’ve found is to work on a couple of short stories. Sometimes the distraction produces further inspiration for the novel.
Have you considered inviting fellow authors to join you in creating a collection?
If you have a favourite genre or theme you could create a collection of your short stories or use yours as a base and mix in stories donated by other authors. You are in control.
When you get right down to it, you are practising your writing craft by producing short stories so why not take that next step and build up a few and make them the ‘chapters’ of your first anthology.
I dare you—you’ll be hooked.
My next anthology, due publication in 2020, starts with a factual story, so once again, another twist. The aim for me is to produce a collection of twelve original tales supplemented by three ‘bonus’ stories which are selected from my other anthologies. This creates value for the reader and provides a platform for the other work by the author.
Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, comments are welcomed.
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.
In my latest anthology of short stories, once again I’ve aimed to create a blend of action, intrigue, suspense, and twist in the tale. I feel particularly satisfied with these tales because several of them have been in my files at some level of completion for about five or six years.
I never throw away an idea, and at least three of these stories grew from a single paragraph removed from a previous short story or novel. In their original locations, those paragraphs were excess to requirement, but nurtured, over time they grew to become stories in their own right.
Once again, to offer value to my readers I’ve included bonus stories to support the new line-up. If you decide to try my work, I’d appreciate a review—however short.