Come what? May …

Come what? May …

Well, it’s the month of May, and I’ve decided to try an experiment, as we indie authors are known to do on a regular basis. This particular indie author is always experimenting.

I’ve just returned with my wife from a week in the Netherlands. I would say Amsterdam, but we are in the habit of getting out and about, so although we spent a lot of time in the beautiful city in which we were based, as usual, we ventured further afield.

Delft - the Netherlands

Delft – the Netherlands

Anyway, I digress.

Whilst away, I spent at least an hour every day working on my latest novel. I wrote several new passages and reinvented one of my fictional abodes. I also introduced a new character for the team of bad guys, so I was pleased with my progress.

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What else came to mind?

What else indeed. There were four main things:

1. Like any indie author, constantly promoting their own brand, pushing their back-catalogue, their latest release, or keeping up with social networking – I lose a lot of actual writing time.

2. The result of the constant marketing activity may be tedious to the author concerned, but I believe that it is as we often refer to it – a necessary evil. I consider social networking to be a promotional activity, although to a lesser degree.

3. There are occasional comments on social networking sites that demonstrate quite clearly that there are some dissenters concerning the self-promotional posts. It may be one comment, or one comment that prompts others to voice an opinion, but they will always be there.

4. I wondered about ceasing my promotional activity for the remainder of this month. When I got home after my break, I checked social networking contacts and my Amazon sales activity for the most recent 30-day period.

There were some surprising results.

a) I had in excess of 90 Facebook notifications, (of which, at least 30 posts involved me). I’ll refrain from including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, emails, etc.

b) In the week up to 9th May, I had a book on promotion; reduced to half-price – but it sold less than my other work.

c) In the month up to 9th May, I have only had two days where I have had no sales or lending.

d) My sales over the most recent two months are only marginally higher than my lending rate. Keep in mind, if books are borrowed there is still a royalty payment.

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My intention now is to concentrate on my writing for the remainder of May, which will mean 20 days without self-promotion. I am a member of the Independent Author Network so as part of their agreement with authors they will promote my brand occasionally on Twitter, but as I don’t believe Twitter is an effective platform for book promotion I’m not concerned about that area.

I will of course continue to pay one or two daily visits to social networking sites on the off-chance that there is a conversation in which I would benefit from taking part.

Instead of a regular update on the topic here on my blog, I’ll leave the next three weeks to run their course and then I’ll write a blog post to report on my findings.

Now at the risk of repeating the title of this article….
Come what? May….

As always, I appreciate any views and comments.

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Amsterdam Calling – the novel

Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714In the wake of having recently reviewed the writing of others, and formatting for another writer, I thought it was time for a little self-indulgence.

My latest novel, Amsterdam Calling, was born from a simple idea. Knowing that I had visited Amsterdam several times, I was asked by a friend to describe the city and some of its many attractions.

I developed the plot from there.

In a similar style to some of my other work, I used two main characters to create an interactive partnership from early on in the tale.

Dan is an investigative journalist from the UK, who, for reasons that rapidly become apparent, feels the need to, ‘lie low’ for a while.

Crystal is a fashion designer from the USA, but her heritage lies in the Netherlands. She flies from Chicago to New York to attend the reading of her father’s will, and is handed two letters by the family lawyer. Crystal decides to visit Europe for the first time, to find her roots; in Amsterdam.

The two travellers meet at Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol, and continue the journey to the city together.

As Crystal starts to uncover her family’s history, she realises that her distant relatives were heavily involved in the Dutch Resistance movement during the German occupation in WWII. A neo-Nazi extremist group takes a keen interest in the American, and they stalk her.

While touring the city with his new acquaintance, Dan discovers that as a result of his recent revelations in a Sunday newspaper, somebody has been tasked with bringing him to account, and not in a good way.

As the story develops, the reader is taken on a tour of many places of interest, in and around Amsterdam, including some of the finest museums in the world.

I delayed publication of the book for over a month, whilst I awaited permission from certain establishments to use their copyrighted names. I think it was worth the wait, and now as sales get underway, I await my first reviews.

Why not sample the beginning of the story on Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.com

Fifty Shades of … Hey!

All together now ... on my author's pages

All together now … on my author’s pages

I don’t have the total figures yet, but from 1st – 20th January 2014, my crime thriller, ‘Beyond The Law’ sold 50 copies. I was pleased to see several sales of the romance, ‘10 Days in Panama’, and delighted to see a variety of sales of my poetry anthologies.

Okay, I’m not about to organise a book-signing anytime soon, but that doesn’t bother me. In the first place, you don’t do book-signings for eBooks, and secondly, it would take up time I could otherwise use for writing. Having said that; I’m now investigating the idea of producing my novels in paperback.

The latest draft of ‘Amsterdam Calling’ is going well. It’s another romance, but it’s also an introduction to places of interest, in the city of the same name. There is a lot more to Amsterdam than ‘legalised’ substance smoking, and a well-known sex industry.

To whom would my next story appeal? Anyone who enjoys a modern romance is the first answer that comes to mind. I also believe it will appeal to all those people who say, ‘Amsterdam … I must go there sometime,’ and it will strike a chord with those who have actually been there. If you’ve visited the city, I’m sure it will bring back pleasant memories.

I’ll have to go now, because I’m aiming to publish in June, which means at least another draft, but probably two. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out my first two novels, you can do so, at my author’s page on: Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. If preferred, you can read the first five chapters of either of my novels; here on my blog, or at my website:

http://www.tom-benson.co.uk/

Looking back … and forward …

 

Top to bottom: Zak Tracey, Derek Nicholson, John Rowley, Mick Bush, Sandy Shaw, Dave Crisp (RCT), Jim Farrell, Me, The chef, an u/k RCT driver

Top to bottom: Zak Tracey, Derek Nicholson, John Rowley, Mick Bush, Sandy Shaw, Dave Crisp (RCT), Jim Farrell, Me, The chef, an u/k RCT driver

For over a year now, I’ve been doing a three-day working week at my retail assistant job, so most of my time is spent writing, which is how I like it. Imagine my shock and delight, when on 15th January, into the store, walks a man I last saw 38 years ago.      

Top to bottom: John Worsell, Mick Bush, Jim Farrell, Dave Crisp, John Rowley, me

Top to bottom: John Worsell, Mick Bush, Jim Farrell, Dave Crisp, John Rowley, me

In 1976 when I left the city of Londonderry, I was a Private soldier, and my Troop Commander was Captain Les Fox. Why, might you ask, after such a long time would I still remember him? In all of my 23 years in the military, he was one of only a handful of men, (and the only officer), that I worked hard to impress. Sadly, he’s not included in the photo I’ve used in this post, but he was there with us, on the Mull of Kintyre on a memorable two-week exercise in 1975.

Still ‘looking back’, in December 2013, sales of my crime novel, ‘Beyond The Law’; were in double figures for the month, and copies of my poetry books sold too, so it was a good month.  Beyond the law_Helvetica_V2

I’m presently making headway with my next romance novel, ‘Amsterdam Calling’, which is due for publication in June this year. The second draft is going well; the characters are behaving, and I’m happy with the places of interest I’ve been able to include in the tale. My son Andrew has agreed to lend his expertise in producing the cover, which removes a lot of pressure. Apart from being important, the cover is a very personal thing, but I trust Andrew implicitly, especially after the cover he produced for, ‘Beyond The Law’.

With regard to ‘looking forward’, I am more eager than ever, to get back to work on my next big project, ‘A Life of Choice’; which is a fictional tale, using many of my own experiences, and those of others from my military service. Meeting Les Fox again, has provided me with the incentive I needed, to get working on my fact-based fiction story.

For now, I must get back to Amsterdam …  

 

Winds of Change …

Windmill painting - acrylic on canvas

Windmill painting – acrylic on canvas

It’s been four weeks since my last confession , I mean blog post. What excuses can I offer? Well for a start there was the first week when I got to grips with my second romance ‘Discovering Amsterdam’ and got the first draft completed. That story is now in cold storage until I get my thriller e-published on Amazon. There will be excerpts from each of my novels on both this site and my website.

I was then on holiday for two weeks. The first week was spent in Germany where we were based in Cologne, but we travelled further afield as usual. Favourite places on this trip with lots of pictures taken were; Cochem in the Mosel Valley and Monschau which is about 800 years old. On returning to the UK we managed a day here and there for the next week. I dabbled in my writing, but I also painted.

I’ve been looking through my recent pictures and I’ve got them down to a shortlist. I want to paint a scene from the Mosel Valley and one from Monschau, but they will be a while coming because I’m doing them a bit bigger than usual. Results will appear on here when completed.

Having just returned from Germany perhaps I would be expected to paint something of that trip – but no, not me. I have my Amsterdam Collection of paintings that was still incomplete. I had a canal, a corner café and a Dutch East Indiaman (three-masted ship). I decided that what was lacking was a windmill – so that has now been sorted. I had pictures that I had taken a few months ago on a trip over there.

The thriller is about a vigilante and it’s had various working titles. I tend to change the title when I do the next draft because that way I can get used to seeing it and I consider if the particular title will work. The latest variation is ‘Hawk – A Vigilante’, which seems to tell the reader what the hero is all about.

My intention is to have someone else design the cover for me on this occasion. I can give a brief of the story and see what comes up and it might be better if another set of brain cells has a go at it. As for the story itself, I’m now on the third draft and the whole thing is already feeling better. What’s better about it? I’m ensuring for example that there is an action scene in every chapter, two in some of them. There will be more death and violence than in the first drafts too – it is about a vigilante after all. I’ll post a chapter or two on here as they are completed and then if anyone has an opinion they can voice it. I do appreciate feedback.

Reading and Writing – Part 2 of 2

In keeping with the advice given by many successful writers, I have become a firm believer in leaving a piece of writing to one side. Stephen King is one such writer who suggests this idea in his book ‘On Writing’. Glasses and pen

The idea, short story, chapter or entire first draft can be left in a drawer, tray or on file on a computer, but the important thing is that it is left alone. You the writer, will come back to the piece at some stage down the line and see it differently. It may be days, weeks or even months, but having already experimented with this theory – I know it works for me.

I have now reached a point where a short story is not released for public consumption until I have written at least three drafts – spread out with a week between each. Does that sound like a chore? Perhaps it is, but what if you manage to have at least three or more ideas on the go at any one time, as I constantly seem to do? That is where I believe it works.

Apart from short stories, I have my thriller ‘Hawk – A Manhunter’ patiently waiting for my return. I have reached the end of a second draft with it and haven’t revisited the manuscript for weeks now. I have taken the precaution of writing passages in a notebook when ideas come to mind so I have fresh new scenes to include in the next draft.

My new venture is ‘Discovering Amsterdam’ which was born from a suggestion by my very good friend and fellow writer Carmen. Yes, the same person who is acknowledged in the cover of my first novel, ‘10 Days in Panama’.

Glasses - Amsterdam‘Discovering Amsterdam’ will be a romantic novel which looks at the relationship between Dan, a British writer/journalist and Crystal, an American Fashion Designer. The plot will see them meet in Amsterdam, having been in touch by email for over a year. Crystal is eager to trace her European ancestry and Dan is her sidekick in the quest.

During the project they will visit many of the wonderful museums found in Amsterdam and through their eyes so will the reader. Well, that’s the theory anyway. I have a basic knowledge of Amsterdam and it’s main museums but I will be double-checking any factual information with more than one source – plus another visit.

Thank you for reading – and a special thank you to anyone who managed to follow both Part 1 and Part 2 of this session.

A Grave Mistake – or not?

Today I published my latest short story, ‘A Grave Mistake’, here, on my website: www.tom-benson.co.uk/ and on www.readwave.com .

The story is about a young policeman who feels he can do things in his own unorthodox way, but his plan fails …

St. Bartholomew's

St. Bartholomew’s

In my own case, I’m presently working on the next draft of my thriller, ‘Hawk – A Manhunter’ and it’s going well. Recently I was inspired to write a tale about a romance in Amsterdam. I’ve taken the idea further than I had intended and it is now taking the shape of a novel in first draft. The tale is titled, ‘Discovering Amsterdam’, but for now I’ll keep the plot under wraps.

Is it wise to write two novels simultaneously, I asked myself a few days ago. It feels like it should work because they are of different genre, so they shouldn’t interfere with each other in terms of thought process. I suppose as always, time will tell.

In other news I updated my website with a total revamp. The theme is now ‘pen and diary’ and it looks much better.

I was delighted to see that a few days ago I received a **** rated review on my ‘Natural History’ Volume 3 of my poetry series which is on sale on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk