A Life of Choice: Part Four – available

 

 

The penultimate volume about Jim Faulkner pursuing a career in khaki, and all the trials and tribulations which befall him along the way.

Have you been following Jim’s progress?

In Part One, Innocence and Inebriation, 17-year-old Jim Faulkner leaves home to offer himself to the service of his country.

Part Two, Paths and Progression, our young man finds himself on a rollercoaster ride of education – in life.

When we arrive in Part Three, On and Off the Rails, Jim has volunteered to work in a scenario where variety is a way of life, mainly when at work.

In Part Four, Onwards and Upwards, life has altered so much, but any improvements have been earned using the experiences of what has gone before.

The final episode of Jim’s story is due for publication in late summer/early autumn 2017.

If I were to ask two small favours of my readers, I would ask that you work through the series in order, and please consider leaving reviews, however short.

Thank you, on behalf of Jim.

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My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

As I did for 2015, I gave myself ten targets for 2016:

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

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

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

6.   Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

7.  Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using CreateSpace

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10. Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

In terms of writing it’s been a year of the series for me, and apart from those mentioned, I’ve been working on Beyond The Law: Consequences, which will bring the trilogy to a close. I found writing a sequel a daunting task, but the final part of the story is proving more of a challenge. I aim to produce the book in early 2017.

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1.  I created the artwork to accompany my poem Whisper Wood for the IASD Children’s anthology.

2.  I revised and heavily edited my published work which took between two to three weeks for each book.

3.  In conjunction with the other Admins, I made a few visits to the IASD blog/website to update and keep members abreast of our news. The Featured Author will be continuing in 2017.

4.  An unexpected occurrence was becoming the mentor for a newbie erotica author. I read the debut title and found the story and writing failed in several areas. The few public reviews were praising the story, but none were justified in my opinion. Instead of damning the book publicly I left a comment on another reader’s review.

The story author got in touch and was keen to know more. I told him I wasn’t an expert, but his work needed more substance. At his request I provided a critique of the story. He pulled the book from Amazon, reworked it and sent it to me for a second opinion. It was much improved and he’s now working on his next title.

5.  I was the beta reader for a couple of our IASD authors, and I read and reviewed several books by members.

barn-owl-96.  I’ve taken brief breaks by drawing and by updating my Tom Benson Author website and my Creative Writer and Artist website.snowy-owl-004

 

In certain areas I achieved more than I expected, but there were casualties in my battle-plan.

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1.  I spent two months revising and editing Codename Koki for Malcolm Beadle, but it appears my mix of honesty, integrity, and expectation were too much. I haven’t heard from Malcolm for a few months, but I’m sure he’s working on the story and other projects.

2.  I have yet to create a paperback, so perhaps 2017 will be the year for me to try CreateSpace.

Blogging A to Z 20164 . On the social scene I had a timely reminder I am not a blogger who writes, but a writer who blogs. I entered the 2016 A to Z Challenge with the best of intentions, but after a few days I abandoned the attempt. Having completed the challenge before, I recalled many hours spent responding and reviewing and in honesty, I couldn’t justify the time. I had difficulty maintaining an interest.

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5.  Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking, and concentrate on reading and writing. I’ve been true to my goals for most of the time. This year I’ve tried to strike a balance. Not many reviews will have been seen from me because I’ve dipped into my TBR, but I’ve also read from my large collection of paperbacks.

I have an allegiance to the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has been assisted by my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. I’ll be continuing my monthly giveaways in the coming year.

What do I have planned for 2017?

Once again my year will be dominated by ‘series’ but I’ll give more detail in my first blog post of 2017. I have an ambitious number of titles lined up for completion. A lot of the groundwork is laid and I continue to work across titles simultaneously.bike-shots-plus-033

Retirement late in 2017 means I’ll devote more time to my passion, and to my renewed interest in cycling, which is where I do a lot of my thinking and scene setting.

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

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Re: Cycling, and Recycling

writing-recycling

What connects my title topics to creative writing?

As a teenager I was a keen cyclist and would be content to go on a ride alone, or with my best friend. Since my childhood I’ve valued solitude as much as companionship. While I spent time alone, away from regular surroundings my mind was free. The time to let my thoughts roam provided me with an unequalled exhilaration.

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bike-shots-plus-025Move forward fifty years. My trusty steed of recent times has been a re-cycled mountain bike I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago. Function ruled over appearance, but I gave it a re-spray for good measure (from red/blue to black). During the spring as I pedalled to work I recalled how I felt all those years ago when cycling far from my usual haunts.

In the summer of this year I treated myself to a new road-racer. I’ll admit the idea behind the purchase was a two-pronged attack.

I yearned for the sensation of freedom a long cycle ride gave me, but I also wanted a regular exercise to help shift a few unwanted pounds. A change of diet was underway, but to achieve a lasting result takes more than extra fruit and less chocolate.

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bike-shots-plus-033How have things shaped up?

Since July I’ve re-discovered the joy of cycling solo. Not many folk want to join a person who sets off at six o’clock in the morning for a twenty-mile ride, but the other benefits add to my contentment. The two bonuses are worlds apart.

I’ve lost 25lbs which leaves me at a personally acceptable 10st 12lbs (152lbs). For perspective, I’m 5ft 8ins tall.

On each ride I rehash and mentally rebuild one or two scenes or sequences from my latest work in progress. I replay a passage often enough to recall it clearly when I return to my keyboard.

In business terminology I’ve found a win-win situation re: cycling, and recycling.

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How does recycling work as a creative writer?

A good writer will not throw out an idea, but store it to be retrieved at a later date. It might be a character profile, a sentence, a paragraph, an opening line, a title, or the main points of a story which isn’t gelling as required. Whatever the aforementioned item might be, it can be brought back to life at any time.

When a writer creates an article for a magazine or newspaper, the creative material is capable of being used with another magazine, thus increasing earnings from the same research. The effort required after the initial article is in the rehashing of the words as the ‘piece’ is prepared for recycling.

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blog-two-books-one-story

 Do I have a favourite way of recycling a story?

Yes. It took me many attempts at reviving certain stories before a simple solution hit home. In many hours of reading text books and other people’s work I saw how a tale could be affected by the point of view.

1.  How the story is told might be the difference between a good story, and a great story.

2.  Whoever tells the story has a crucial bearing on how it comes across to the reader.

For example:

A story told in first person creates a ‘me and you’ intimacy between character and reader.

The intimacy is intensified if the narrator is the main character and creates a personal introduction early. Empathy between reader and narrator evolves rapidly.

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What’s my favourite recycling project?

A Life of Choice - Part OneA Life of Choice is without doubt my best example of recycling a writing project. The story is loosely based on my personal experiences during military service, and has undergone more recycling than water in a space station.

My career in khaki ended in 1992, but the intention to tell the story occured before I handed in my uniform. The urge to relive it through writing was strong. Unfortunately, what wasn’t as strong was the requisite writing skills. Undaunted, I put together hundreds of passages and snippets of long-remembered conversations.

In 1996 my working title was ‘1001 Short, War Stories’.**

I had no knowledge of point of view, back-story, info-dumping, formatting, or … well, you get the idea.

I had no serious intention of producing a tale for anybody other than me and my family. As it happens, neither my wife, nor our son (now 33), enjoy reading fiction.

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How have I brought cycling and recycling together with my favourite project?

As I write about a particular time period from my past I listen to music of the era. I’ve found inspiration from a single track, and on occasion a ‘sound’ like: The Sound of Philadelphia, the New Romantics, Synthesisers, the 80’s. The idea works when at my keyboard, but is equally useful when on the road.

Prior to my ride each morning I get into my cycling outfit, but before setting off, I listen to a single piece of music from a time period on which I’m working. The most recently heard music is rememberd naturally.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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Many people think of recycling as a task. They consider what they might be able to recycle, and a lot of materials are simply discarded, because it’s easier. Laziness is a human trait.

Writers are a breed apart in a lot of ways, and recycling should be a major ingredient of our lives – at least with regard to our literary intentions. We tend not to give up, and those who know their craft will hold onto written material which another person might consider meaningless.

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As always, any comments are welcome, and I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and reasoning.

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A Life of Choice – Part One, and A Life of Choice – Part Two are available on Amazon now. A Life of Choice – Part Three will be published by the end of November 2016.

A Life of Choice - Part ThreeThe final two parts of the tale will be published in the spring and summer of 2017 respectively.

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**1,001 Short War Stories has never been more than my earliest attempts at creative writing. I recently produced the cover seen above to support this post.

A Life of Choice: Part Two – available

 

Signalman Rod Hogarth with B70 - circa 1973

Signalman Rod Hogarth with B70 – circa 1972

As the title suggests, this is the second episode of my coming-of-age story. My plan at the time of writing this post is to produce a series of five books, but this will depend on two factors.

1. How well the early books are received.

2. How any feedback affects the detail and content of the successive episodes.

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In Part One, ‘Innocence and Inebriation’ Jim Faulkner left a humdrum existence, and as a reserved 17-year-old went out into the world in an unexpected move. He joined the British Army and found himself facing trials and tribulations he’d never before considered.

 

In Part Two, ‘Paths and Progression’ our young man has congratulated himself on completing basic training, adventure training, and radio training. He’s spent a few months in his first working unit in the UK, and he finds new discoveries and adventures following arrival of the entire unit in Germany.

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For the benefit of anyone interested in such detail at this stage, the operator featured on the front cover of this volume is my good mate, and one-time fellow crew member Rod Hogarth. Here, Rod is depicted operating the obsolete B70 SHF radio set, and on this occasion it’s ground-based, mounted on a tripod.

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The introductory book of the series was published on 6th January 2016, and has reviews.

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick

The second book has been published a week later than scheduled. It is a larger book than the first, because it focuses on a longer time period

My aim is to produce the next episode in October 2016.

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A Life of Choice: Part One

Amazon (Preview/Buy)         BookLinker (Universal)

A Life of Choice: Part Two

Amazon (Preview/Buy)          BookLinker (Universal)

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Work in Progress ?

My fuel tank ... and a message.All writers have them, but it’s down to the individual if it is a shelved idea, or a work in progress (WIP).

What’s the difference?

Like all topics I post, this is a matter of personal opinion and experience – and not the result of a deep, and prolonged survey of thousands of hours of discussion. I believe there is a stark difference in this case.

Editing - Amsterdam Calling

What do I consider a shelved idea?

As I tend to do, I write about what I know, including my blog articles.

The following are ‘shelved’ as opposed to WIP.

1 – I have an abundance of titles – yes, only the titles.

2 – I also have around 20 short stories which have been started. This doesn’t mean I’ve opened a file and given a title – it means I’ve written at least an intro paragraph, or more in some cases.

3 – The shelved ideas category also includes the ‘ideas’ which are still in my head. I don’t like to think of myself being busier than anybody else because I’ve got a head full of ideas.

Every writer should have a head full of ideas.

What do I consider a work in progress?

At the time of writing (31st October 2015), here is my WIP:

1 Beyond The Law: Retribution.BTL Retribution

This is the sequel to my most popular title so far. Understandably, I’m working hard to produce my best.

I’m presently reading it aloud, line by line, and using a red pen to highlight minor issues before final tweaking and formatting.

Publication date is 7th November 2015.

 

2The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

The WelcomeThis is not a single title of course, but a collection. I will be supplying eight of the stories. Four other stories will be supplied by guest authors. If you’d like to take part, please see the recent, relevant post:

(The Weclome) – plus details of the invitation to add a short story to an anthology.

Three of my stories in this collection have been published previously in other anthologies. Another three are new and completed, while the final two are completed, but I don’t like the endings – yet.

Of the four stories coming in from guests, I have two firm and in my file, one being reworked, and there is no show as yet from the fourth.

I’m determined that any anthology I publish will have at least 12 titles, so if necessary I will write another title to make up the shortfall.

3 A Time for Courage: and other military stories.A Time for Courage - 1

This is another anthology, for which I’ve invited at least four guest authors. The offer is still open.

Three of my stories in this collection are previously published elsewhere in anthologies. The other five are at various stages of completion. A satisfactory ending is paramount for me with a short story, so it’s an area that will affect a completion date for any of my work.

4A Life of Choice – Volume 1.

This is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

ALOC - Vol 1It is a fictional tale, but based on my life. The story started as my autobiography many years ago when I could type … but I couldn’t write. I’m now fairly confident in my ability to do both, although how good a writer I am is not for me to say.

Instead of one book, this story will now be written as a series, which will allow me to take it into the years after the military career.

I believe the post-military character of a person is as important to understand as the boy-to-career soldier.

Much of what will be in the various volumes will be true events, where only a name or two have changed, but some scenes will be completely from my imagination.

I’m always working on this series in the background, but until I’m happy with the first three volumes, there will be nothing published from the series. (Volume 1 should be out by March 2016)

My theory is that I have to know if the idea is worth the effort. To be fair to readers and give the project a healthy chance, I feel I must give at least a good bite of the cherry – or in this case, three volumes, all at low prices.

Well, there you go my faithful, and possibly some new followers.

In a nutshell, if it’s a work in progress (WIP), to my way of thinking – you are ‘working’ on it.

Thank you once again for putting up with me and my theories.

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PS. I’ve used a little bit of artistic license. I am in the bottom picture of A Life of Choice, but I’m not a recruit. 😀

T … is for Taboos

T[1] is for taboos. Nothing is taboo to a writer these days, or so you might think, but I would disagree.

I’d like to put that statement in perspective before we get into the body of this post.

I was a soldier for 23 years, and the first 7 of those, I was single. To say I lived a colourful life would be a massive understatement. More on that later, but please remember that this is a guide, based on my opinion.

Which areas are possible taboos?

There will be more, but there are areas where I would tread carefully. They include: rape, child abuse, torture, the disabled, the elderly, religion, poverty, addiction, racism, alcoholism, bestiality, gratuitous violence, and successful criminality (crime paying is not a good theme).

I know, I know. There will be some of you asking what is left?. I’m not saying we shouldn’t include or describe any of these things in our writing. I use several of them in my novel, ‘Beyond The Law’, but I don’t glorify any of them. Some modern writers can write a rape or domestic abuse scene, but it’s not done in a style that sounds gratuitous – it is done to fit in with the style and the genre of the book.

The best way I can think of describing the use of a taboo subject is to take care with your portrayal. It would be wrong to suggest that these themes or topics don’t exist, because they do, but it’s how they are used in writing that can make them work without being offensive or degrading.

Is there a simple guide?

I believe that there is. My own method is to use my own writer’s conscience.

What is my writer’s conscience?

My personal writer’s conscience is what I’m left with when I filter out the extremes of social conscience. There are many out there in our world who take political correctness to an unbelievable level. I’m talking about racism, sexism, sexuality, vulgarity, etc. When I write about such things, it’s not my opinion that is voiced; it is the opinion or voice of the character. Even so, I don’t use my characters as a cover for abuse of any sort.

If I wouldn’t like to read it; I don’t write it.

How do we recognise personal taboos?

If I’m reading horror, I want to be so terrified that I don’t want to continue reading in a dark room, with only a table lamp on.

If I’m reading erotica, I want to be aroused, and might prefer to be reading in a dark room with only a table lamp … (Yes, I know, too much information). lol

If I’m reading any story and I find it distasteful or the content is simply for the writer’s gratification, I stop reading it. This has happened more than once for me. Two things I don’t like are: bad writing, and stories written for those with morbid tastes.

That is how I recognise personal taboos, and how I’ve developed my writer’s conscience. I hope it hasn’t been too boring a journey today. As I said at the introduction; I’m not, and never have been a prude, but I do still have standards.

There was a hint at the introduction that I would say more about the colourful lifestyle I enjoyed before marrying. One of my next novels is, ‘A Life of Choice’, which is fact-based fiction. I’ve been working on it for several years, but I will aim to complete it this year. It will of course be publicised right here.

Thank you as always for your patronage, and I look forward to any comments, which I will of course reply to. I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘U’.

Doing the right thing …

I’ve spent three months working on the latest short story to be posted here.  It’s called, ‘Debt of Honour’.  A young sailor is marooned after a mutiny, but then the ship returns to the island a year later.  The Lord might well say, ‘vengeance is mine’ but our young hero has other ideas.  I’m entering it for the Global Writers March competition, so once again, here’s hoping.  

Whilst we’re on the subject of doing the right thing, I’ve made fair progress with Chapter 1 of my novel.  The working title is, ‘A Life of Choice’ and the main character is a young man by the name of Jim Faulkner.  He looks, sounds and acts remarkably like I did at the same age when I joined up.  By this weekend I intend to have Chapter 1 edited and be working on Chapter 2. 

In the knowledge that I’m now converting my autobiography to a fictional novel (laced with fact), I am more content to continue.  I would appreciate any comments on my decisions to go down this route.  I appreciate comments or criticism of any of my writing.   

On poetry, I am underway with a series on the analysis of dreams.  I will continue with that idea.  My most difficult task in the future is to avoid spending too much time on verse because it distracts me from my ‘conventional’ writing.