Category Archives: trilogy

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. 🙂

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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Codename: Nightshade – available

 

A standalone crime thriller produced as a result of the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Yes, we authors can write what we ‘know’, or what we enjoy but at the end of the process, the result must be entertaining. For some authors the task of producing a standalone crime thriller might not sound too daunting, after all, what do you need apart from time (two years in this case), imagination and research where required?

I reread the Beyond The Law trilogy from beginning to end in a week. Yes, I wrote the books, but I still made copious notes. The cast includes friends, allies, enemies and a handful of neutrals, but the body count is important—we can’t have dead people coming back if it isn’t that type of tale.

 

Dare I say, I enjoyed the trilogy and felt justified in the character I singled out for the spotlight.

Rachel Donoghue rapidly developed from being a vehicle thief to covert operative and had the desire to continue improving her skills. In Codename: Nightshade, Rachel proves that not only has she improved as an operative she has leadership skills to offer.

Of course, besides all of those things, she is first and foremost an effective vigilante.

There is no requirement to have read the Beyond The Law trilogy before reading the new story, but perhaps you will afterwards. The original trilogy is available as a box set, therefore saving you money, and allowing the download of three books in one.

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Codename: Nightshade

Amazon Preview/Buy

BookLinker Universal

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My Series’ are boxed off

 

How to attract more readers and give them a reward—that was my quest.

I have individual novels, a trilogy, and a five-part novel. My poetry titles come in the form of a bumper book of serial poetry, my five-part, multi-genre series and, of course, a collection of rhyming erotica.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

Erotica, not usually mentioned on this blog—apart from poetry I have several novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of novellas.

I was looking at an opportunity hidden in plain sight—box sets.

I could offer a series at a cut-price. Yes, it would mean I lose a small amount in royalties from the individual book sales, but providing entertainment to a greater readership is more important to me than the money—which of course would be the spin-off; I know. 😀

Four questions came to mind.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How many people are keen to have a series available in one download?

How many people will take the opportunity of saving about 15-20% on the overall price?

How many of my series should I prepare as box sets?

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How hard would it be to create them, and how long would it take?

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The good news is, the graphics in this post are not simply for show. The first part of the job is done—four box sets completed, although while working on the project it felt like forty. Amendments to front and back matter was tedious, but worthwhile.

In each case, there is at least a free book when comparing prices to individual purchases.

These box sets are available on Kindle Unlimited.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

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I have no intention of going along the audio route so it will be interesting to see if this idea works.

Things got off to a good start with the erotica—a box set sold within three hours of publication.

I’ll write a post giving any useful information if the idea takes off, and in which area/genre.

A Life of Choice is available as five individual eBooks, a box set of five, and as a paperback trilogy.

If you’re new to my brand, all of my eBook titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.

In my meantime, I’ll be happy to accept question, comments and suggestions.

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Codename: Nightshade – Update

 

Beyond The Law was my first serious crime thriller and was so successful it had to be retitled, Beyond The Law: Formation as I learned the joys and pitfalls of writing a sequel, and ultimately—a trilogy.

The BTL trilogy titles; Formation, Retribution, and Consequences were published in 2013, 2015, and 2017 respectively, and I have to admit, I was satisfied when the job was completed. The characters and the ongoing story appealed to many readers, but as the author, I always had a soft spot for Rachel Donoghue.

Before I published the third book in the BTL trilogy I had a yearning to choose a character and create an individual story, so it will come as no surprise that I selected my personal favourite.

I wrote a few experimental passages and then shelved the idea—it needed a fresh start, and the best way I knew, would be to work on other projects and return to my ‘spinoff’ idea occasionally.

It’s two years later, and I’ve brought the various chapters together, many of which had been reworked multiple times. Before it reaches the standard for beta readers to chew it over, it stands at 117, 000 words, 37 Chapters and an epilogue.

If I can entice a few good people to beta read the manuscript sometime in mid-August, I would like to aim for publication by 16th September 2019.

Could I tempt you to be a beta reader?

I have the ‘rough’ drafts of the first three chapters here on my blog under Work in Progress, Codename: Nightshade. A few lovely people have left comments on Chapter 1.

Thank you for the visit and any comments or suggestions.

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No more sex for a while

 

For a few years, I’ve conducted mini-experiments, and ‘surveys’ if you like. Nothing extensive which would include other authors or their work, simply a record of how my output is doing. Among my tinkering, I’ve changed formatting, book covers, and tried genre to see if I was capable of writing whatever it might be.

I’ve had positive feedback on the latest poetry covers, and the erotica covers—in particular how I’ve sub-branded them in colour for an anthology, novella, or novel.

I started my creative writing with poetry, moved on to short stories, and then novels. Since mid-2014 I’ve dedicated some of my writing time to erotica. I got underway with a novel and a single collection of erotic short stories, so I never expected much success—the market is flooded with 25-page, and 40-page ‘books’. I’ve seen book ‘bundles’ which in their entirety amount to about 100 pages.

Why am I stressing the erotica output when I removed it from this blog over a year ago?

Using the six-month period from September 2018—February 2019, I started my latest check on how things are shaping up for my books. When I include KENP (the page reads recorded on Amazon), and the sales, I’ve found that the popularity of my genres in descending order is: 

Erotica, Military, Thriller, Romance, Short Story Anthologies, and finally Poetry Anthologies.

When I’ve dug a little deeper I’ve found that the KENP brings me in three times as much money as outright sales of any of my work. KENP related to my erotica titles brings in more than half of all the money I earn on Amazon.

This tells me that although erotica receives the fewest public reviews overall, it earns the most money, and it’s from people who don’t want to buy books—they want to borrow them. They don’t want anybody to know … so they borrow, read, and get rid.

Having said all of the above, my next erotica title is Woman to Woman, a prequel to Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica—my most popular book in the genre. When the next erotica title has been published, I’ll be giving the sex angle a rest and concentrating on my mainstream writing.

Why do I intend to stop erotica when I have successful titles?

I’m not in the writing game for the money—if I was, I’d set higher prices. 🙂

I do have another experiment underway but to get accurate results I’ll need another couple of months. I will report my findings later, whether good or bad.

And there you have it—if you are using Kindle Unlimited and enjoying my erotica (which like all of my books is on KU), you’re in good company.

Don’t be bashful … leave a review.

Until next time, thank you for dropping by.

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P.S. If you haven’t been over for a look at my other blog:

https://tombensonerotica.wordpress.com

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One step beyond … Beyond The Law

 

Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.

Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.

Beyond The Law: Formation was published in 2013, Beyond The Law: Retribution in 2015, and Beyond The Law: Consequences in 2017. In terms of timing, I’d be on target now to produce the next if it were an ongoing series.

I have no worries about a continuing story, but I enjoy stretching my writing creativity in different directions, which is why I ended the Beyond The Law (BTL) idea and proclaimed it a trilogy.

As a reader and a writer, certain characters lend themselves to the spotlight and become favourites. For me as an author, one such character is Rachel Donoghue. When the BTL trilogy ended, the door was left open for several characters to make another appearance. Rachel was crying out to be given a standalone adventure. From this premise was born Codename: NightshadeRachel’s antics will provide continuity, closure in certain areas, and further entertainment for those who have enjoyed the BTL trilogy.

As a precursor and to get me in the right frame of mind I recently reread and made several edits to each book of the BTL trilogy. Plot and detail were not affected, but some dialogue and narrative were tightened to improve the reading experience.

In the new story, a few names from the past from both sides of the law will show up, combined with new good guys, and new bad guys. This will not be a fourth BTL story, but by its nature, it will lean in that direction. The key aspect of the tale for me is to highlight an individual character.

The first five chapters of Codename: Nightshade all appear in my Work in Progress menu. They’re not the finished article, but they give a flavour of how this individual character will demonstrate her skills and how much promise she has as a central protagonist. As an author, I’m thoroughly enjoying expanding my notes and ideas, many of which have been made over the past year. For me, Rachel is already real, and out there doing her best … to the worst.

I aim to produce the book in June 2019, which means that by May I hope to be asking for beta readers to help refine the tale.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and in particular, thank you to the followers of the BTL story. I have to go now … gangsters, guns and a girl are waiting for me. 🙂

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