Category Archives: Short Stories

Beta or Worse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All comments are appreciated as always.

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

Time after Time – part 2

 

What’s with the ‘part 2’ in the title?

My first blog regarding this topic and the idea was Time after Time on 7th December 2019. I thought it would keep everything neat and tidy if I used the same blog title with the addition of ‘part 2’. It doesn’t mean it’s the second book. It’s not rocket science, and if it was, the theme of the stories would be Sci-Fi … but I digress.

Mainly because I have faith in the standard of the authors there, I only promoted my blog post to the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook.

Apart from one author and friend outside of the group I had the promise of stories from three people. As might be expected, the cusp of a new year is not a great time to capture anybody’s attention so after the minimal interest in December 2019 and January 2020 it was time to play my ace … post again in February.

Inside forty-eight hours I acquired a handful of original/unpublished stories from proposed guest authors and the promise of tales from others.

How do things now stand?

I’m pleased to report that I have completed my personal contribution (six original stories). I may add more if my imagination and time permits.

I have five original stories from guests.

My estimate at this time is that the anthology will contain at least fifteen stories of between 1,000-4,000 words. When published the eBook will be available for 99p/99c and it will also, of course, be available Free on Kindle Unlimited, as are all of my titles.

Now that I have a reasonable number of guest authors and stories, it’s just a matter of time ….

The proposed publication is July 2020, but if sufficient work is done on all of the stories (including my own), and they are ready earlier I’ll be happy to publish earlier.

I had intended to add ‘bonus’ stories of previously published work by the authors but I’ve dropped the idea to avoid upsetting those readers who don’t like finding stories they’ve found elsewhere.

I’m sure any reader or writer would agree it will be a bargain and a great collection.

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My New Writing Year – 2020

 

My New Writing Year – 2020

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

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

 

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

OMG, that’s next weekend.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

What else is on the cards for me this year?

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

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

(UK link)

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

 

C. I. Lopez on Amazon.com  

 

 C. I. Lopez on Amazon UK

 

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

Tom

Time after Time

 

When a writing idea comes to you is it best to shelve it in your memory, note it in your diary, or get it down where you can play around with it and see if it has any merit?

I’m a great believer in the writing it down method. Although I enjoy writing novels I am unashamedly addicted to the discipline of short story writing.

While working on a story for inclusion on Around the Bend: and other stories, my next anthology, I considered a tale which involved the passage of time, and it struck me that ‘Time’ would be a superb theme for a multi-author anthology. I could write my standard twelve tales to build a collection, but then I thought how great it would be for the reader to have different voices and styles.

Short story collections may not be at the top of readers’ shopping lists, but when there is the opportunity to read a selection of authors and obtain quality with quantity … it works for everybody concerned. I don’t go through the mill of trying to make my author compilations free on Amazon, and I don’t use Smashwords. I do, however, make the price the lowest possible and like all of my titles, I list the combined-effort anthologies on Kindle Unlimited.

Rather than detail everything twice, I have added the idea to my Work in Progress (WIP) list on the main menu. If you feel you could produce a short story based on the theme ‘Time’ and you’d like to donate a tale or two to the collection, please click Time after Time or the book cover graphic, and leave a suitable comment on the appropriate page.

If you’d like to just read the criteria and make a suggestion or comment, please do so.

As you’ll see from my WIP I have a lot on my schedule but I will be taking a keen interest in any stories which are offered for the multi-author collection. There are certain criteria as noted on the book’s page, but above all, I am aiming for quality stories.

I’ve already produced ‘My Writing Year – 2019’ back in November, so no doubt this post will be my final one for 2019.

Thank you to all who take the time to visit and special thanks to you lovely people who make the effort to leave a comment. I wish you all a great festive season and look forward with you to another great reading and writing year.

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My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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Producing an Anthology

 

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.

I enjoy reading and writing short stories. In the Resources section of my blog, apart from tips on the discipline of Writing a Short Story and Competition Writing I have sections regarding anthologies, Creating an Anthology, and Theme or Genre-based?

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.

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One Man, Two Missions – now available

 

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.

My thanks to Robert Lalonde, Penny Luker, Paul A Ruddock (PA Rudders), Sarah Stuart, Ruth Coulson (Rebecca Bryn), Senan Gil Senan, Lucinda E Clarke, Anne Francis Scott, SK Holmesley, and Lesley Hayes. All of these wonderful people are fellow members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook and were my beta readers for this anthology. Every one of the ten beta readers has had an impact on the stories through their valuable suggestions.

1. One Man, Two Missions – a tale of terrorism, and counter-terrorism

2. Hunter – a young gamekeeper is repaid for his devotion

3. A Fair Cop – the law works in mysterious ways

4. Target Practise – assassins should avoid role reversal

5. The Meeting – karma, it just comes around

6. Taken for a Ride – do your homework before kidnapping

7. Dealing with Conflict – a run leads to a run-in

8. Changing Tides –  when all around is darkness …

9. The Hostage – impulsive decisions can be fatal

10. Finger of Suspicion – the small things matter

11. The Beginning of the End – how far would you go for science?

12. Escape – you must know when to get out

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Bonus stories from other collections:

13. Pawnee Express – youthful exuberance and courage

14. Poisoned Ivy – do unto others … but harder

15. Photographic Memory – communication without barriers

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