My Writing Year – 2017

 

I’m exhausted, but content as we are teased to the end of the writing year.

Completed in 2017

In many ways, this has been a productive and enjoyable year. My writing aims were achieved with the exception of two areas.

– I placed a variety of my titles on Kobo for four months and saw nil return for my efforts.

– I postponed tackling paperback to allow more time for producing my target titles.

What were my reading and writing achievements?

– I read thirty books – twenty of which, were by IASD authors.

– I published all seven titles which I had either in progress or intended for this year.

– I created the early stages of Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller which is a spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.

The ‘Tom Benson – Author’ catalogue at end of 2017

 

– In March, I separated my erotica titles from this blog and set up Tom Benson – Erotica

– In July, my study received a makeover, and I got an early birthday pressie – a Mac.

More views available on slideshow to top right

– In September, our son, Andrew treated me to a four-day break in Prague, Czech Republic – to celebrate my retirement year. This spawned the idea for a new thriller — Czech Mate. Many photos were taken and pages of notes written in research.

 

 

 

 

– In the first week of November, I turned 65 and finally retired from regular work. Another celebration trip was made, and on this occasion, I went to Edinburgh, Scotland with my wife. While there I took photos, made more notes and walked miles in research for Czech Mate. The main character is from Edinburgh. 🙂

 

– As this year comes to a close I will cease to hand out my work for free. For over two years I’ve given away one, or a number of titles for a weekend each month. How much impact the venture has had on my sales is unclear, but somewhere along the way I’ve had reviews from folk generous enough to give their time. My freebies were worthwhile for that if nothing else.

 

– When December got underway I dropped the price of A Life of Choice: Part One. Now that the series is complete and there are a few sales, I thought it might stimulate interest if the first volume in the series was only 99p (and equivalents).

 

– During December, my Highland Games erotica novellas are available at 99p each. If you haven’t ventured into reading this genre, you know what they say — don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 😀

 

 

 

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– Throughout the year I was proud to be a part of, and play my part in the Admin of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group. For me, this involved assisting in the maintenance of the group website, and the updating of the monthly Featured Author.

– During 2017, I continued as mentor for my distant friend, Carmen, to help produce her first collection, Alone: and other short stories. The stunning cover was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce. The book will be published later this month and I will post links appropriately when it goes ‘live’. I supplied three of my stories to support this debut title.

Carmen was my key resource and support during the writing of Ten Days in Panama. She is also one of the guest authors in my collection, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What lies ahead for my new writing year?

All will be revealed in my first post of 2018, but suffice to say, I’m going to be busy.

I will take this opportunity to thank all who read my work, and those who make the effort to read my thoughts and check on my progress. I sincerely hope your old writing year has been good to you, and your new year will be better yet.

Tom

 

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Shy and Retiring …

 

       A ‘fresh’ early morning – October 2017

Okay, so the ‘shy’ is no longer accurate, but ‘retiring’ will provide me with a renewed freedom. My second career (retail), has now ended and I’m a few days away from my 65th birthday. I’ve worked and paid my dues for fifty years, and I’m ready to chill-out.

What lies ahead?

I’ve listed a handful of projects to get me underway which includes a couple of days revisiting the various items in my garage, shed, and of course the attic. Apart from those small, ongoing jobs I’ve got a couple of major redecorating tasks lined up.

I’ll be continuing to draw and paint, but new hobbies on the horizon are baking and organising a vegetable patch. If the baking idea works out and I’m not totally useless I’m not worried about weight issues because I’ll also be continuing with my cycling. As recently as the weekend past I’ve ordered a new mountain bike to complement my racing bike. There are times when a writer who rides, needs to tangle with tough terrain.

In keeping with the purpose of this blog, this post is about my writing, but I’ve given an introduction to put recent followers in the picture about the person behind the titles.

I will no longer be going out to play my public part in the rat-race, but I believe my writing will be enriched by a more relaxed attitude to each day. When I stepped down from management a couple of years ago I felt a weight lifted, and my creative output rapidly increased in volume and quality.

Where will my writing go in the future?

I began with poetry and moved on to short stories before novels and novellas. My best work has been in the area of Thrillers and Romance, but I’ve also ventured into Sci-Fi and Erotica. Having attempted and realised the difficulties, I’ve left behind the option of writing for children – which is a very specialised craft. I believe we should all be aware of our limitations as well as our abilities.

I’m considering attempts at Horror, Paranormal, or Fantasy, but I’ll be leaving them until early next year, by which time my three present WIPs will be at an advanced stage.

 

How will I tackle such things as new genre?

Personally, I find an early morning, long, solo cycle ride an ideal environment to let the mind wander. While getting dressed I listen to appropriate classical music, and as I set off on my ride I consider the genre on which I want to focus. I’ll report back as and when I have new ideas developing.

 

 

What else is in the pipeline?

I’ve created many of my own covers, but used a designer for the thrillers and romance novels. I’ve been in touch with my cover designer and as we reach the new year I hope to have professional covers to support my fact-based fiction series, A Life of Choice.

What about paperback versions of my books?

This is an idea I’ve toyed with over the past two years, but I’m cautious.

It is a time-consuming task, and from all I’ve heard, the pricing is too high and not competitive. Yes, it would be nice to have my work in a physical format, but I’d prefer to be producing stories.

What’s in the mix for the near future?

To celebrate 48 years since I signed up to serve ‘Queen and Country’, there is a military theme to my final freebies. I will then end the monthly giveaways. As a thank you for all who read this post, there follows a couple of dates for your diary.

What else is cooking?

I’ve no doubt a few of you who have read my work will have smiled at the thought of me baking. At the present time I have no intentions of creating a new blog based on my new hobby, but for amusement I might slip in the odd photo of my efforts – successes and failures, although I hope to have many more of the former.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and intentions. All comments are welcome.

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Czech Mate – early moves

 

Any creative writer who is honest will admit that it would be nice to make it big, but while we wait for a movie producer to call – we continue to work, honing our craft.

Blog posts made by our fraternity are wide-ranging. Depending on how things are going with the Work in Progress (WIP), it could be a post about how the previous book is selling (or not), ideas for the new one, a review on somebody’s book, or many other topics.

If it’s a promotion, it might be shouting about the latest idea, or trying to push it when the work is done, and it’s available. I thought it would make a change to talk about a new novel in those introductory stages of its life.

 

How did I come up with the idea for my latest?

This is the year I retire, and our son, Andrew, (who lives in Amsterdam), got in touch a few months ago and suggested that we had a father and son reunion to celebrate my special year. We’ve both seen a lot of Europe, although he’s seen more than me. I was delighted when he said Prague was our destination for a four-day stay. I decided I’d write a story using the Czech capital as a backdrop.

Within twenty-four hours (and an early morning cycle ride), I had considered romance or thriller and had a basic idea for my plot.

What came next?

It took less than two days before I had my working title, Czech Mate, and I began creating my main character, a Scottish artist called Bryce. As my morning cycle rides were conducted each day I considered locations, action sequences, other characters, and crucially who were the good guys and the bad guys.

I dedicate a notebook to each of my projects and this one was no different. When I went shopping with my wife, or we went somewhere for a day out, my Czech Mate notebook went too. I listed names, ages, nationalities, and a few personal details for each new character.

What about research?

Google is good, but, in mid-September I flew from the north of England to Prague in the Czech Republic, to meet Andrew, who had flown from Amsterdam.

Andrew is a keen photographer with an eye for detail, so when he was setting up his tripod, I had ample opportunity to take pictures, make notes, and gain a ‘feel’ for my surroundings.

To us, streets, restaurants, pubs, theatres, galleries, churches and regular tourist attractions are not simply places of interest, they are ‘subjects’, or ‘locations’. For four days we were both able to indulge in our chosen passions.

Prior to the trip, I spent hours reading up on the history of the Czech Republic and had several pages of notes on people, places, and political events.

How did I follow up my great trip?

Since my return, I’ve written four thousand words, invented a few action sequences, and worked out who is good, bad, or on the fence. A few locations will be in the UK which will help to balance the story.

What about character detail and development?

I’m presently filling out my characters’ details as I let the early part of the story rest. Each person will have a date of birth, a physical appearance, a profession, an allegiance, a background, and certain skills. No, not all detail will be brought into the story, but it’s important to create a rounded character in the author’s mind which helps to develop the character for their part.

When will the story be published?

I aim to have the basic storyline completed by end December 2017. Like all my projects, it will be printed and left aside for three weeks, or perhaps a month. During that time I’ll work on something else. There are three main projects in my stable at present which is healthy, because they will each be allowed at least three weeks between drafts.

At present, I’d like to see Czech Mate being published in the spring of 2018.

As always, thank you for taking an interest in my work and my words. All feedback is welcome.

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A Stage further …

 

Yes, I’m a happy man. I’m filled with a sense of achievement as I compose this post. This is not something about which I’d normally boast, but hey, it’s special.

As I reach this point in my life I have already put a sequence in place for my monthly freebies on Amazon.

It’s only three weeks until I give up my retail job, and one week later I’m officially retired. The act of retirement is a conclusion of sorts, and my other achievements are also conclusions in their own way.

Some time ago I suggested I’d try to write a sequel, which was done and then followed by a series. This of course refers to Beyond The Law, the trilogy.

I have over the years insterspersed my other other writing with a long-term project. My factual autobiography and military memoirs was fraught with issues when I first wrote it – apart from the standard of the writing.

Now, with reasonable writing experience and success, I’ve completed my five book series, A Life of Choice. The fifth book is not due publication until November, because I would like to use completion of the series to celebrate the 48th year since I signed up to join the British Army.

I tried my hand at erotica in short story format, moved on to novel, and following success with both, I recently completed a series of five novellas. Highland Games is the result.

My September give-away was the first in my Beyond The Law trilogy, and with three months to the end of the year, I’m giving away books with connections.

Over the next three months, on two occasions the weekend freebie will be the first in a series, and the remaining weekend freebie will be a pair of books which complement each other.

Military Matters is a book of poetry which contains 80 verses which reflect aspects of life in military uniform. This book will be accompanied by A Time for Courage: and other military stories. In an attempt to avoid any hitches they will be offered separately, but over the same few days.

At the end of this year I will be terminating my monthly, freebie weekend. If you haven’t yet sampled my work, this is a good time to try a variety for free.

As we come into the final three months of the year it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have three WIP. Two of the new stories are thrillers, Czech Mate, and  Codename: Nightshade. The third is erotica, Curious and Camping. All three books will be published in 2018.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words and taking an interest.

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MEET TOM BENSON

My thanks to Lucinda for this wonderful feature …

lucinda E Clarke

This week’s writer is one I am really happy to introduce. Firstly, he helped me set up my web page (no, not true, he set it up for me – I’m clueless) and we read each other’s books way, way back when I was still new to social media. He held my hand every step of the way.

tom bensonThe book Tom’s chosen to showcase in this guest blog is one I’ve read and I liked it so much that I bought the second in the series as well. Having been married twice to men who have also served in the forces, it was like getting a peep into what really goes on behind the scenes ‘among the boys’. Girls get curious about these things you know.

A Life of Choice   West Germany   April 1992

“Thanks, mate,” I said, accepting a bottle of beer from one of my soldiers.

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Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.

 

Happy New Writing Year – 2017

Turning a new page is how some of us judge the prospect of a new writing year. In December 2016 I assessed the centre of my writing world – my study. Okay, it’s a converted bedroom but it’s been my study for several years – the title has been earned.

During a domestic re-hash I cleared out my 20-year-old desk, complete with the hutch shelving. I re-organised my stationery, research material, notice boards and other accessories. The year ahead is important for me in several ways, but more of that later.

My head was buzzing with ideas for 2017, and refreshed surroundings was the way to go.

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My writing targets for the forthcoming year:

  1. Beyond The Law: Consequences. Conclusion of the trilogy.
  2. A Life of Choice – Part Four.
  3. A Life of Choice – Part Five. Conclusion of the series. I have two choices of graphic for the final part of the story. In both cases the graphic is a spoiler, so I’ll leave the question mark until closer to publication.
  4. Temptation: and other stories. My usual offering – twelve varied tales.
  5. Highland Games – 3: An Erotica Novella.
  6. Highland Games – 4: An Erotica Novella.
  7. Highland Games – 5: An Erotica Novella. Conclusion of the series.
  8. Prepare a standalone story / spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.
  9. Instead of attempting to produce one of my novels as a paperback using CreateSpace, which would be ambitious and affect other projects – I’ll study the issues of the paperback option, ready for 2018.
  10. Maintenance of the IASD blog/website, and continued support of our members in whatever capacity I am able. This includes reading, reviewing, and beta-reading.
happy-new-writing-year-2017-2

Three of the aforementioned titles are beyond fourth draft, and another is at an advanced stage.

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I tend not to use my blog posts as a personal diary however, for the benefit of my peers and my readership I’d like to clarify my position as we set off into the new year.

In 2012, I reached the 20-year point in my second career; Retail Management. I was in the early stages of my writing career and gave careful consideration to my options. As I progressed from poetry, to short stories, and novels – I stepped down in stages in my retail work. I went from manager, to deputy manager, to part-time deputy manager – to sales assistant.

Many of my retail colleagues have been incredulous to see a person steadily letting go of the reins of power. What might not have been so obvious to them in the process was the shedding of responsibility and the accompanying stress. A lot of the stress was self-inflicted due to my prediliction for maintaining the highest possible standards – whatever issues might have been affecting the various tasks I had, or stores I managed.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working locally and on a part-time, three-day week basis. My change of circumstances is largely responsible for the increased production in my creative writing.

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Summer – 2016

2017 will be a landmark year in two main ways. In March I’ll celebrate being married to Olive for 40 years, and early in November I will achieve retirement age (65). I intend to stop working for other people in October.

It will come as no surprise I will not be wondering how to fill my time. Apart from keeping up with the myriad duties of a husband, I’ll have more time to read, draw, paint, cycle and maintain my fitness … and of course I’ll be writing.

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As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.

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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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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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Writing Tip – POV Switching

An excellent point of view from author Eric Lahti … on point of view ….

Eric Lahti

The first book I read that switched between 1st person and 3rd person point of view was Charles Stross’s The Rhesus Chart. At first it was the normal 1st person POV I’d come to expect from Stross, but then there were little bits of 3rd person POV that popped up. It threw me for a moment because it was unexpected, but the POV change was handled skillfully enough that it added a dimension to the narrative rather than pulling me out of the story. In a way, it was more like the chorus in Greek tragedies – those folks that told what was happening when the action on the stage wasn’t happening.

I don’t know if this is a new thing – this hopping between the depth of focus that comes from 1st person narrative to the breadth of knowledge that comes from 3rd person – but it seems to be…

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