A Life of Choice—Reborn

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I can say with confidence that I will never apply as much effort to any other writing task as I have to ‘A Life of Choice’.

It was 49 years ago this week when I left home to start basic training with the British Army. My military career ended in 1992, after 23 years, and it was a couple of years later when I gathered information towards writing about that career as military memoirs. It would take many years before I’d gained sufficient writing knowledge and skill to produce an entertaining tale.

I tried the fact-based route first, both in the first-person point of view and in third-person. The end product was massive and carried far too much detail—it went into ‘storage’.

When I’d successfully written and published thrillers, romance, short stories and poetry, I turned once again to my magnum opus. I toyed with fact or fiction, and viewpoint. My choice was fact-based fiction, written in the first-person point of view.

By 2016 the first of five parts was published and was well-received. As each part went out, the reviews continued to be positive, so I sidelined my other writing projects. I still tried to read, review and help my peers with their projects. Apart from public reviews on my new series, I started receiving private messages via my author website—mainly from ex-soldiers (male and female), who wanted to pass on their gratitude for the accuracy and humour. Most of these guys were not comfortable writing public reviews.

My only concern was that many serving and ex-service personnel were not e-reader users and I have regularly received requests for a paperback version.

Five paperbacks would have been easy to produce, and would also be simple to ‘match’ on websites or outlets. Marketed as five paperbacks, the series would have been expensive to buy, so I set myself a series of tasks.

1. Perform a complete rewrite to tighten dialogue and deal with minor amendments.

2. Break the story to balance the chapters and create a consistent ‘volume’ for each of the five parts.

3. Select the appropriate places to break the story to make a paperback version as a trilogy edition.

4. Rewrite all blurbs for the five eBooks, and three fresh blurbs for the paperback trilogy.

5. Compose a disclaimer which could be used with internet marketing blurbs and within the books regarding the different editions having the same content overall.

6. Select excerpts from reviews to use on the back covers of the trilogy.

7. Build a catalogue of information to educate my book cover designer regarding the ideal graphics solutions. This was difficult because anything available now in photographic evidence is very different to the equipment I would have known in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and early ’90’s. We persevered, and the trilogy covers feature equipments which were landmarks in my story.

As I’ve done for my novels, I hired the talents of Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio–a designer who works tirelessly until the solution meets customer satisfaction.

 8. Organise the sequence of publishing—all five amended eBooks and the trilogy, only when I had the bespoke covers for the trilogy.

9. Create graphics to market the two editions separately and together.

10. Prepare my author website and this blog for when the new trilogy went public.

 

I commenced this renewed labour of love in June 2018. Once again, apart from helping other writers on individual projects, and managing a major task for the Indie Author Support and Discussion group—most of my efforts went on the conversion process.

How did I relax when it was getting intense?

Several times I pulled out one of my erotica projects—as difficult to write as any other genre, but light relief in terms of content. Occasionally I’d draw, paint, or read, but not as often as I wanted because I felt a sense of guilt for not ‘working’.

In mid-October, I completed the conversion of five eBooks into three paperbacks. It was around 7th November, when I completed the final formatting sequence for the revised eBook versions … and then I had another coffee.

The pricing of the paperback trilogy is more than I’d have wanted, but I reconcile my concerns knowing that each book is around 570 pages. It was vitally important that nothing was removed from the story. 

Useful Links:

My Author Website

Amazon UK – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

BookLinker-Universal – for the paperbacks

A Life of Choice: Part One – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Two – The Trilogy Edition

A Life of Choice: Part Three – The Trilogy Edition

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Who might find an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of my paperback trilogy?

Apart from review excerpts by a selection of ex-Royal Signals personnel, and an ex-Army wife, I opted for snippets from fellow authors, namely: Frank Parker, Barbara Fagan Speake, Paul A Ruddock, John MW Smith, and Paul Rees—notably, all fellow members of the IASD.

Thank you for taking an interest, and passing a few minutes with me.

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Five into Three

 

A Life of Choice is fact-based fiction, presently available as a five-part novel for Kindle. The story is the most popular title in my catalogue.

If my first attempts at this tale were included, A Life of Choice has been a work in progress for about twenty-two years. On the other hand if we were to treat my military service as research for the story—it goes back to forty-eight years.

Whatever else I published it was always important to me that I completed this project. It was heart-warming to see the first reviews from serving personnel and ex-Service personnel, of course, but to see glowing reviews from readers who’d never donned a military uniform—gratifying.

As with all of my writing, it was never my intention to publish in paperback, but like many things, I’ve decided to change course and take that step.

Why paperback?

– Since the first part was published as an eBook (two years ago), I’ve had requests to produce the story in paperback. There are many people out there who either have difficulty using a digital reader, or simply prefer a physical book.

– It will give me the opportunity to use the paperback version as a gift, or on occasion a ‘prize’ in draws for various military charities.

Do I expect to make a profit from sales of a paperback edition?

No.

– I don’t write to make money, which I like to think is reflected in the price range of my eBooks. My titles are competitively priced or they wouldn’t be treated seriously.

– By the very nature of indie paperback publication the individual books are expensive when compared to availability of the household names in any supermarket or bookstore.

– I’ve created the covers for my eBooks with a few exceptions—those being designed by a professional cover designer.

– This series will have covers created by Aimee Coveney of Author Design Studio.

What’s going on with the ‘Five into Three’?

I produced the story in logical parts to publish as eBooks, but the individual books would not justify the price set by Amazon for paperback versions—in my opinion.

Due to the the process and use of the data provided by the author, the Amazon KDP system requires exact information when relating an eBook to a paperback. I’m taking a risk, but trying to think outside the box.

A temporary cover idea.

– For the paperback version, the series will be broken into three parts. They will still be ‘logical’ parts, but of greater substance than their digital counterparts.

– To ensure the job is done properly I’ve spent many hours selecting where to move chapters from one book to another in order to adjust overall length. This has entailed amending the Preface and the Epilogue in each part.

– As I did with Amsterdam Calling, and Ten Days in Panama, I am underway with a complete revision of the story. The tale will remain the same, the humour or more serious aspects will stay in place, but the writing will be tighter. I will also be adjusting the use of uppercase letters for certain instances.

– Instead of associating the paperbacks directly with the eBooks within the Amazon system, I will sub-title the paperbacks as The Trilogy Edition. I’m in the process of writing appropriate jacket blurbs to highlight that it is the same story but in a different format. This will also forestall any conflict with Amazon and their ‘Matchbook’ process.

Will the updated writing have a detrimental effect on the eBook version?

No.

I will be using the rewritten chapters from within the paperback manuscripts to replace the chapters in the appropriate eBooks. In this way, the writing is updated but the front and back matter of each book remains constant.

How will I prevent issues with the publication of the ‘original’ and ‘updated’ editions of the eBooks?

I will prepare all five eBooks and update them in one session so that they’ll become ‘live’ on the Amazon system within hours of each other.

How will I ensure that ‘The Trilogy Edition’ paperback version is seen to be the same story?

– I will not publish any of the paperback versions until I have all three completed.

– As with the eBook updated versions, I will publish the three paperbacks in a single session, aiming for them to appear within hours. Paperbacks are not purchased as rapidly or frequently as eBooks so there isn’t as much pressure on timing.

A Life of Choice: The Trilogy Edition – Part One is completed.

There you have it, people.

In my next post I’ll report on how things are going with my conversion of five into three, and I’ll explain why my eBook publishing plans for this year have been altered.

As always, I thank all of you who take the time to visit and read my blog.

Mid-year Writing Summary – 2018

 

I believe the greatest pressure applied to an indie author is from within—as should be the case with any self-motivated person. We must have a heartfelt desire to produce work to the best achievable standard. This sets the tone for this post.

Each year, I end with a summary of my writing achievements and near-misses (I try not to class anything as a failure—except my one-time attempt at writing for children). I tend to start the new year with my targets for the year ahead, but it occurred to me to produce a mid-year summary.

This year has already served me with mixed fortunes in my writing.

Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller has for several reasons not developed as well as I would like, and will remain a Work in Progress.

Czech Mate, a second standalone thriller has likewise cost me time and effort but I’m unsatisfied with the direction—a second tale to leave on the back-burner.

One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is my next anthology of mixed-genre tales and they are coming along well. Several of the stories started life a long time ago—and we are talking years; not weeks or months. Due publication in summer/autumn 2018.

Lisa: and other short stories by C I Lopez was a collection I felt privileged to assist the author to produce. This is Carmen’s second selection of stories from her wide-ranging files full of short stories. As I did with her first anthology, I provided three ‘bonus’ tales to support the book. This author may be new to some of you, but her work is worth checking out.

 

Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey developed rapidly from two different ideas, and I believe it worked. In May 2018 it became my second erotica novel. As usual with this genre, good to see early sales, but reviews are hard to come by.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories is another by-product of not throwing away ideas and has resulted in the successful completion of my second erotic anthology. These tales have been redrafted several times over a long period. Publication – June 2018.

To find out more about my erotica work please visit: Tom Benson – Erotica

 

Paperback conversions had been beckoning me for a couple of years and I’m pleased I postponed the task—and a task is what it is. Of course, I’m suggesting that it’s hard work, but my intention was never to simply copy the eBook files and have a cover designed.

I reworked Amsterdam Calling from beginning to end and apart from reducing the word count and altering the style to cut dialogue tags, I believe the writing is an improvement. The cover was designed by my professional cover designer Aimee Coveney and made to measure.

Having learned many lessons, I followed up with Ten Days in Panama and performed the same disciplines. Once again the job took weeks rather than days, but the end product is pleasing to the eye—in my humble opinion.

What’s next?

I had intended the next paperback project to be the Beyond The Law trilogy, but again, for various reasons, I’m putting that job on hold. I may write a post in a few weeks to explain my rationale for those who are interested in such information.

A Life of Choice, my military, fact-based fiction series-novel is by far my most successful work to date. This story has resulted in my book sales being daily and not sporadic. My page reads (KENP), have for some months been in the thousands rather than the hundreds on a regular basis.

Requests to have the story in the paperback format are sent to me at least twice weekly, which to my way of thinking is a ‘demand’ worth meeting.

Again, it will not be a straightforward ‘conversion’ of digital to paperback. I will have five books to revise, but to make all five books worth the price set by Amazon I intend to move chapters to increase/decrease volumes to keep them at a uniform size—which is appropriate.

My poetry collections had never been a consideration for a paperback, until recently when I thought it might be a good idea to combine all five anthologies as a single bumper edition (250) of my rhyme. It will be a project to keep me occupied when I’m taking time out from other work.  

My writing journey began seriously in 2007. From the outset, although at first, they were of a low standard I dabbled in short story writing. I kept titles, ideas, introductions, passages and whole stories. As my writing has developed I revisit those old snippets and occasionally it takes only a title or a phrase I’ve used and I feel the urge to get a story written using those old fragments.

I am a great believer in a writer never throwing away material, and this has proved an asset and helped my steady production of titles.

During January 2018 I increased my Facebook visibility by creating Tom Benson – First Pages. My intention was always to attempt a daily post and when I felt the page was established, give publicity to other indie authors.

For three months I plugged away, highlighting an excerpt from one of my books. As April got underway I introduced Monday and Thursday as Review days to show my reviews of fellow indie authors’ work.

I don’t know how much notice is taken of the reviews I feature, but I have noted an uptake on my titles over this time. On week-ending 20th May, I stopped all activity on the page—my intention, to leave it dormant for one week. I’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

The internet and social networking are wonderful aspects of our modern world, but occasionally I indulge in a partial or complete detox. Over the past week I’ve deliberately kept a low profile and for me at least, it helps recharge my creative batteries.

Thank you in advance to all those who indulge me with a visit here.

Amsterdam Calling – with options

There is no excuse for not reading certain books and Amsterdam Calling is now included in that ‘certain’ category. It matters not if you use a smartphone, eReader, computer screen or prefer to handle a physical book — the options are all there. If you have a Kinde eReader you can even read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited.

As the author it’s not for me to say whether it’s a good story, but here is the selection of review excerpts I’ve included on the back cover. I’m delighted to say that the reviews are by three exceptional authors: Lesley Hayes, Patrick Christopher Power, and Barbara Fagan Speake.

Research in Amsterdam

The seed was sown by my distant friend and fellow author, Carmen Lopez. She suggested my knowledge of Amsterdam and its many attractions would lend itself to a good story. In the latter part of 2012, the first notes were made, hundreds of photographs perused and a simple plot devised. A few weeks later I had the makings of a thriller, but as an author will tell you, strong characters have a way of messing with your head; and your story idea.

By the spring of 2013, my tale was a romance with thriller undertones, so thanks for that, Dan and Crystal, (the main characters).

The final version took a year of rewrites, double-checking of facts, emails to businesses and reaching up to pull out hair that was no longer there. Amsterdam Calling was no longer one of several optional title ideas and a hard-fought manuscript. By the summer of 2014, it was an eBook.

This year, having revised all of my books at least twice I was prepared to do so again, starting with Amsterdam Calling. After all, the paperback version was going to be more expensive and I wanted them to look professional in every respect. My aim was to deal with formatting so I purchased the Vellum program. I asked Aimee Coveney a professional cover designer to deal with the solution for the exterior of the paperback. I gave myself a target of four weeks for completion, and that was how long it took.

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It was halfway through my final year at school, in May of 1966, the Beatles released what was to become one of my favourite tracks – Paperback Writer. I recall there was a big football tournament on TV at the time, but it took second place to my loves of music and reading. It would take a little over fifty years before I fulfilled my dream and published a paperback.

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My creative writing commenced in earnest in 2007, so I spent ten years working at my craft and only publishing eBooks. For the past two years I’ve suggested I’d get into paperback versions of my books, but each time I’ve started work on the project it’s been postponed to write more stories.

To see this story in paperback is a thrill, and sales are being made which is heartwarming, but unlike many authors, I have something else which will give me a buzz. In the summer I’ll be heading to Amsterdam, so I’ll be taking a few copies of the book; gifts for people who gave me permission to use their enterprises in the story.

I’ll leave you with useful links in case you’re one of those yet to find a comfortable way to read this story:

Amazon Preview/Buy      Amazon Paperback      BookLinker Global

You’ll notice in the graphic of the paperbacks, I finally have the excuse to make bookmarks. They’re double-sided and laminated, which means anybody who uses one won’t forget what I write and where to find my books.

As always, thank you for reading my post, and those of you who do; my books.

Beyond The Law – The Trilogy

The trilogy is completed with the publication of Beyond The Law: Consequences.

My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.

Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.

In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.BTL Retribution

It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.

As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesUntil I read feedback on Beyond The Law: Consequences I will suffer a long wait.

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Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.

Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.

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As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.

Tom