A Cover Story

Astute authors will recognise that irrespective of how good their story might be, it’s the cover which is the first point of contact with the reader (or ‘the customer’ if we’re honest).

I accepted early on in my writing career that if I wanted my books to be treated seriously then I’d have to part with cash, and not for vanity publishing—some people still do. In essence, I’d have to fork out before my hard work had produced any reward in royalties.

There are many more aspects which affect the success or failure of a book but for now, I’d like to stay on topic—covers.

It didn’t take much research for me to discover that poetry and short story anthologies attracted less interest than any other aspect of creative writing. Yes, as luck would have it, my first titles came into those categories, however, I’m a positive kind of guy and saw an opportunity. Here were two areas in which I could practice the dark art of cover design. Later, I would find another. 😀

My first novel took a year to write due to me also holding down a full-time management job. I produced my idea of a cover for Beyond The Law. Even with my artistic leanings, it was not an impressive sight, so let’s not go there.

For my next two novels, I bit the bullet, which is an option not many of my characters are offered. I paid a professional cover designer to cater for Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling. Both books sold steadily and a significant lesson was learned. I asked the designer to create a cover for Beyond The Law (later to be suffixed ‘Formation’. Like the other two covers, it was expensive, but the blow was softened when I saw the effect of a decent story married up to a good cover.

In less than six months, I received sufficient royalties from Beyond the Law to cover the cost of all of my first three covers. Needless to say, I went on to use the same designer for A Taste of Honey. When Beyond the Law – the trilogy was created with the addition of ‘Retribution’ and ‘Consequences I saw regular sales. 

I continued producing the covers for my short story anthologies as the books were published. Yes, they would sell, I thought, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant a hefty outlay on covers.

One interesting twist came when I wrote my magnum opus, A Life of Choice. This was a five-part, fact-based fiction series; a depiction of my military career, but I had doubts. I hoped it was written in an entertaining and engaging style, but it was simply a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t see it as a prize winner or a major money-spinner.

I designed the covers using the ‘Regimental Colours’ of the Royal Signals (my Corps), and I used a small representative graphic for each of the five stages. My theory was that the ‘colours’ would attract the eye of some of the thousands of Royal Signals soldiers past and present. Following a slow pick-up and a few good reviews, this series rapidly established itself as my top-selling story.

The only issue I had was the regular requests for it to be available in paperback. I experimented and it took several weeks but I managed to amend the end/beginning of the five parts to convert them into a paperback trilogy—the same story, in the same words but broken at different logical points in time.

I recognised a potential saboteur—overconfidence. I contacted my professional designer and gave her a simple brief, sending her photos of the three pieces of equipment to be featured, samples of the background colours and all the printed matter for front and back exterior. For example, apart from the blurb, each book in the trilogy has excerpts from three different reviews. It took a few weeks to get there and I was delighted with the designer’s solution.

An area that some indie authors fail to register is that paperbacks are formatted differently regarding the front and back matter. I took great care in presentation, as I’ve done with all of my paperback versions so that they mirror traditional books.

One aspect of this series I didn’t expect was how much it would be enjoyed by those who had never served. The primary target of any creative writer should be to provide entertainment and it gladdens my heart to know I’ve achieved my aim with this special story.

As if by magic, the paperbacks continue to sell. I’m delighted to report that they are a popular prize at the many military fund-raising events to which I donate signed copies of the trilogy. 

I recently felt that I’d gained sufficient knowledge and experience to try my hand again at the creative, challenging skill of cover design. It took a few days but I’ve refreshed the covers for the Beyond The Law trilogy. My versions are on trial for a couple of months.

Apart from poetry and short story anthologies, I said that later I was to find another area for which I could create the covers. Erotica is that area and not surprisingly there aren’t that many reviews although they are good. There are, however, plenty of sales. 😀

If you’re an author at whatever stage of your journey, please remember that a well-crafted book with a good cover is more likely to see a healthy return on the investment of your time and money.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.

Time after Time – now available

Some might see ‘Time after Time’ as a worn-out phrase but I saw it as both the inspiration and title for a new venture—a collection of tales related to ‘Time’.

I first considered a personal anthology of short stories using ‘Time’ as the theme and then it occurred to me to widen the net—offer the idea as a platform for fellow authors. I first had guests contributing original tales when I produced The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, a ‘genre-based’ collection.

 

This new anthology is not genre-based but ‘theme-based’ which means that authors had the freedom to use any genre with which they were comfortable (except erotica), but the story had to be original and related to ‘Time’.

Occasionally, an author will be attracted to a theme and in this case, a couple of my guests provided more than one story. This is a win-win. It first provides the reader with a larger volume of entertainment for the same low price of 99p/99c. It also gives the author the opportunity to showcase more of their talent in their new work.

Why is a collection of 19 stories being sold at only 99p/99c?

My reason for producing these ‘guest author’ anthologies is not to make money, but to provide a platform for my fellow scribes and me. Short stories are one step above poetry at the lower end of eBook sales but for those who enjoy a selection of coffee-time tales and like a bargain, it works well.

For the benefit of both readers and guest authors, there is a short bio and links included for all who have submitted stories. A unique feature in this anthology is a foreword about Time by etymologist, Millie Slavidou, one of my guests. I believe the brief introduction into the subject creates the right mindset before delving into the tales.

I wrote six original stories specifically for this collection and they appear at the latter end of the book. As I’ve done for my guests, I’ve included a bio and links for readers to check out my other literary efforts.

I hope you feel motivated to give this collection a try and you are entertained. As with all eBooks I publish, this one will be available to read free on Kindle Unlimited.

If you do try the book, please consider leaving a review.

Thank you.

Tom 

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Time after Time – part 2

 

What’s with the ‘part 2’ in the title?

My first blog regarding this topic and the idea was Time after Time on 7th December 2019. I thought it would keep everything neat and tidy if I used the same blog title with the addition of ‘part 2’. It doesn’t mean it’s the second book. It’s not rocket science, and if it was, the theme of the stories would be Sci-Fi … but I digress.

Mainly because I have faith in the standard of the authors there, I only promoted my blog post to the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook.

Apart from one author and friend outside of the group I had the promise of stories from three people. As might be expected, the cusp of a new year is not a great time to capture anybody’s attention so after the minimal interest in December 2019 and January 2020 it was time to play my ace … post again in February.

Inside forty-eight hours I acquired a handful of original/unpublished stories from proposed guest authors and the promise of tales from others.

How do things now stand?

I’m pleased to report that I have completed my personal contribution (six original stories). I may add more if my imagination and time permits.

I have five original stories from guests.

My estimate at this time is that the anthology will contain at least fifteen stories of between 1,000-4,000 words. When published the eBook will be available for 99p/99c and it will also, of course, be available Free on Kindle Unlimited, as are all of my titles.

Now that I have a reasonable number of guest authors and stories, it’s just a matter of time ….

The proposed publication is July 2020, but if sufficient work is done on all of the stories (including my own), and they are ready earlier I’ll be happy to publish earlier.

I had intended to add ‘bonus’ stories of previously published work by the authors but I’ve dropped the idea to avoid upsetting those readers who don’t like finding stories they’ve found elsewhere.

I’m sure any reader or writer would agree it will be a bargain and a great collection.

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My New Writing Year – 2020

 

My New Writing Year – 2020

Welcome to my world in this new writing year. Due to the methodology of creative writing, it is a craft in which the product disregards the passing from one year to the next. Of course, authors, like many other people like to feel they are making progress, so we recognise the new year even if our work doesn’t.

Work in Progress (WIP) I am bringing forward this year?

 

Light at The End. This is my first attempt at a post-apocalyptic novel. The seventh draft is now as much history as the missiles which are mentioned early in the story. I’ve had alpha and beta readers check out the tale. I aim to publish on Saturday 11th January 2020.

OMG, that’s next weekend.

 

Czech Mate. This story features a young art dealer from Edinburgh who follows up a mysterious and cryptic message left in his father’s will. As the title suggests, Bryce, our hero finds himself in the Czech Republic and then things get complicated. This story has been put on hold over the past year for a variety of reasons but I’m aiming for publication in 2020.

 

Codename: Foxglove. This is a sequel to Codename: Nightshade.    In the ‘Nightshade’ story, Rachel Donoghue continues the work she was trained for by Phil and Annabel in the Beyond the Law trilogy.

 

Dominique McEwan, a young woman with a keen sense of justice is recruited and assessed by Rachel Donoghue (Deadly Nightshade). The pair vow to work together and build a new team of vigilante operatives. How rapidly this story develops will depend on how many other projects in which I become involved.

 

 

Around the Bend is my next anthology of mixed-genre short stories. This collection opens with a fact-based tale of a road accident. I witnessed the incident and was then involved in the rescue of one of the vehicle drivers. The other stories in this anthology include covert operations, romance, horror, comeuppance, police detectives and more.

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At the time of producing this post, I have no immediate plans to publish more erotica in my own name. I already have two more erotica titles underway but they will be under the Katya Cumming banner. ‘Katya’ has six titles available and all are doing well, although reviews are scarce as we all know. My intention is for her to cease producing work when ten titles are achieved.

My first target with Katya was to use the pseudonym as an experiment, which produced positive results, and the secondary aim is to reach ten titles. Six are published, two more are WIP and I have two more sketched out as basic ideas.

Click on the graphic to go to Katya’s Amazon page

What else is on the cards for me this year?

I’d like to publish another invitation anthology in 2020. As I did with The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories I will produce at least six tales and add work from other authors. My aim is to create an anthology of twelve original stories plus three or more bonus tales of a similar theme. Like the main collection, the bonus stories will come from my guest authors and me, but they will be stories which are previously published. The idea may or may not work, but my choice of theme is ‘Time’, hence the title, Time after Time. If you’re interested, please use the highlighted title or click on the book cover to go to the WIP page. 

I will be reading for pleasure, and beta reading throughout the year as normal which takes a lot of my time, but while I’m helping a fellow author of whatever level, you won’t find me complaining. I will be continuing to mentor my good friend, fellow author and poet Carmen Lopez.

(UK link)

Two anthologies of short stories have put Carmen on the global stage, and this year gets underway with the recent publication of her first novel, Beware The Fury. (US link)

 

C. I. Lopez on Amazon.com  

 

 C. I. Lopez on Amazon UK

 

Thank you for your visit and any comments/suggestions, and now, on with the creativity. 

Tom

Time after Time

 

When a writing idea comes to you is it best to shelve it in your memory, note it in your diary, or get it down where you can play around with it and see if it has any merit?

I’m a great believer in the writing it down method. Although I enjoy writing novels I am unashamedly addicted to the discipline of short story writing.

While working on a story for inclusion on Around the Bend: and other stories, my next anthology, I considered a tale which involved the passage of time, and it struck me that ‘Time’ would be a superb theme for a multi-author anthology. I could write my standard twelve tales to build a collection, but then I thought how great it would be for the reader to have different voices and styles.

Short story collections may not be at the top of readers’ shopping lists, but when there is the opportunity to read a selection of authors and obtain quality with quantity … it works for everybody concerned. I don’t go through the mill of trying to make my author compilations free on Amazon, and I don’t use Smashwords. I do, however, make the price the lowest possible and like all of my titles, I list the combined-effort anthologies on Kindle Unlimited.

Rather than detail everything twice, I have added the idea to my Work in Progress (WIP) list on the main menu. If you feel you could produce a short story based on the theme ‘Time’ and you’d like to donate a tale or two to the collection, please click Time after Time or the book cover graphic, and leave a suitable comment on the appropriate page.

If you’d like to just read the criteria and make a suggestion or comment, please do so.

As you’ll see from my WIP I have a lot on my schedule but I will be taking a keen interest in any stories which are offered for the multi-author collection. There are certain criteria as noted on the book’s page, but above all, I am aiming for quality stories.

I’ve already produced ‘My Writing Year – 2019’ back in November, so no doubt this post will be my final one for 2019.

Thank you to all who take the time to visit and special thanks to you lovely people who make the effort to leave a comment. I wish you all a great festive season and look forward with you to another great reading and writing year.

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My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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Producing an Anthology

 

Have you ever considered producing an anthology of short stories?

Perhaps you’ve written short stories and never considered creating a collection, or you’re a novelist who shuns the short story discipline to concentrate on longer work.

My first anthology was a project, a challenge, a dream, and a nightmare all before it became a reality.

I’d written numerous short stories and won competitions, but Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories was my first foray into compiling an anthology. Should I aim for a theme or go multi-genre? Is it best to go with a complete set of original work or include something which has been commended? Go it alone or ask other people to donate a story?

The questions pile up about ten seconds after the decision to tackle such a project.

I’m pleased to report that stories from that first collection are still referred to in reviews, which is heartwarming. It is also a testament to the credibility of the stories and justifies their inclusion. I’ve now compiled seven anthologies including The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories created by inviting other authors to join me.

When I compiled ‘The Welcome’ it was never about earning money, it was always intended as a platform for fellow authors from the IASD and me to get examples of our work out there. No, the collection hasn’t made me a millionaire although the book continues to sell the occasional copy. Thanks to Amazon’s peculiar attitude to customers spending a set amount of money before being allowed to comment, there are now fewer reviews being posted.

I suppose I should come clean and admit that if you’re a multi-genre author like me there is a constant need to work on a new anthology. If writing short stories appeals to you then the next logical step must be producing a range of your work instead of keeping it aside waiting for the opportunity a competition offers.

Would you prefer to keep all the stories in one genre, or might you find it easier to mix the genre?

The two main routes to go are theme-based or genre-based, and then, of course, you can go it alone or invite work from others. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to hone your writing skills.

I enjoy reading and writing short stories. In the Resources section of my blog, apart from tips on the discipline of Writing a Short Story and Competition Writing I have sections regarding anthologies, Creating an Anthology, and Theme or Genre-based?

The key, as with all writing projects is the desire to take on the mission.

If you are more inclined to work on novels, you’ll appreciate that your manuscript needs some downtime, and one of the most useful ways of dealing with this I’ve found is to work on a couple of short stories. Sometimes the distraction produces further inspiration for the novel.

Have you considered inviting fellow authors to join you in creating a collection?

If you have a favourite genre or theme you could create a collection of your short stories or use yours as a base and mix in stories donated by other authors. You are in control.

When you get right down to it, you are practising your writing craft by producing short stories so why not take that next step and build up a few and make them the ‘chapters’ of your first anthology.

I dare you—you’ll be hooked.

My next anthology, due publication in 2020, starts with a factual story, so once again, another twist. The aim for me is to produce a collection of twelve original tales supplemented by three ‘bonus’ stories which are selected from my other anthologies. This creates value for the reader and provides a platform for the other work by the author.

 

Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, comments are welcomed.

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One Man, Two Missions – now available

 

In my latest anthology of short stories, once again I’ve aimed to create a blend of action, intrigue, suspense, and twist in the tale. I feel particularly satisfied with these tales because several of them have been in my files at some level of completion for about five or six years.

I never throw away an idea, and at least three of these stories grew from a single paragraph removed from a previous short story or novel. In their original locations, those paragraphs were excess to requirement, but nurtured, over time they grew to become stories in their own right.

Once again, to offer value to my readers I’ve included bonus stories to support the new line-up. If you decide to try my work, I’d appreciate a review—however short.

My thanks to Robert Lalonde, Penny Luker, Paul A Ruddock (PA Rudders), Sarah Stuart, Ruth Coulson (Rebecca Bryn), Senan Gil Senan, Lucinda E Clarke, Anne Francis Scott, SK Holmesley, and Lesley Hayes. All of these wonderful people are fellow members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook and were my beta readers for this anthology. Every one of the ten beta readers has had an impact on the stories through their valuable suggestions.

1. One Man, Two Missions – a tale of terrorism, and counter-terrorism

2. Hunter – a young gamekeeper is repaid for his devotion

3. A Fair Cop – the law works in mysterious ways

4. Target Practise – assassins should avoid role reversal

5. The Meeting – karma, it just comes around

6. Taken for a Ride – do your homework before kidnapping

7. Dealing with Conflict – a run leads to a run-in

8. Changing Tides –  when all around is darkness …

9. The Hostage – impulsive decisions can be fatal

10. Finger of Suspicion – the small things matter

11. The Beginning of the End – how far would you go for science?

12. Escape – you must know when to get out

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Bonus stories from other collections:

13. Pawnee Express – youthful exuberance and courage

14. Poisoned Ivy – do unto others … but harder

15. Photographic Memory – communication without barriers

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Temptation … at no cost

 

Yes, hard to believe, I know. Temptation often comes with a price, however small—but not this time.

My next collection of short stories is due to be published next week, so I thought it would be appropriate to offer something at no cost for all you who like a short story. For three days, my anthology Temptation: and other stories is free to download.

Friday 14th June to Sunday 16th June inclusive

Contrary to what the title might suggest, there is no erotica, but the stories are connected by the theme; Temptation.

 

What’s inside?

1.   Temptation  – Dave has a long-standing weakness.

2.   A Grave Mistake – DC Jeff Clark cannot resist the chance of glory.

3.   Good with Words – Who is in control at this meeting of minds?

4.   Poisoned Ivy – Emma’s desire and potential were recognised early.

5.   The Reunion – Will Gerry feel the wait was worthwhile?

6.   Going Down? – Being impulsive sometimes has consequences.

7.   A Day of Reckoning – Lei Mei has a tight schedule to meet through choice.

8.   The Visitor – A remote island offers unusual opportunities.

9.   To Go Boldly – Was this where it all started for Jim?

10. Louise E Anna – Where there’s a will, patience, and understanding ….

11. Bewitched – In the 16th century, not everything was as it appeared.

12. One Good Turn – Wayne risks his life for a stranger. 

The twelve stories are supplemented by five bonus stories taken from other collections.

Debt of Honour – from Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories, by Tom Benson

Blood Brothers – from A Time for Courage: and other military stories, by Tom Benson

Stranger than Fiction – from The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, by Tom Benson and guest authors.

Goals – from You’re Not Alone: An Indie Anthology, by Ian D Moore and friends.

Faith, Hope, and Charity Holes: An Indie Author Anthology, by authors of the IASD.

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BookLinker Universal

There you have it … are you tempted to grab a book of seventeen short stories for free?

If you haven’t sampled my work before then this is an ideal opportunity to try it for nothing, and if you’ve never got into short stories—take the plunge.

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Perhaps if you like what you find you’ll be tempted once again in about a week when my next collection makes an appearance.

Watch out for, One Man, Two Missions: and other stories. The tales have been honed by using the valuable opinions and suggestions of several fellow members of the amazing Indie Author Support and Discussion group. They will, of course, be accredited in the new anthology.

Thank you for the visit.

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My Shorts are Expanding

It’s now five years since my first collection of multi-genre short stories and two years since my most recent. Don’t repeat it too loud, but I also have erotic shorts. Now, armed with such random anniversaries, and a host of new ideas, I’m well on the way to releasing my next anthology.

 

What can be expected in One Man, Two Missions and other stories?

The use of firearms features prominently, and there will be more than one tale about hostage taking, but of course, those incidents don’t always end well for the kidnappers.

Police officers, special operatives, and soldiers of fortune make appearances with some strange outcomes.

For good measure, I’ve slipped in a sci-fi tale, only because it fits the general theme. There will be no steamy romance, erotica or humour.

When will the new anthology be published?

My target date is 6th July 2019.

As I tend to do with these stories, I will work on them, rest them, edit and rework until I’m content, and then they’ll be farmed out to a few beta readers for opinions and suggestions. A couple of the tales have been in my files for three or four years, but have undergone massive makeovers.

Reasons I’ve been drawn back to short stories are that I thrive on variety, and it’s good to break away from spending too long on the same project.

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My priority and biggest WIP is my next thriller, Codename: Nightshade, which is coming along but to ensure it has an original feel I have reached the point where I have to leave it aside often. When using characters from a successful trilogy it’s essential to avoid the trap of reusing previous scenarios to create a credible standalone.

I would like to publish this thriller by the end of 2019, but it must be ready.

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What have I got in store with the new anthology?

1. One Man, Two Missions – a tale of terrorism, and counter-terrorism

2. Hunter – a young gamekeeper is repaid for his devotion

3. A Fair Cop – the law works in mysterious ways

4. Target Practise – assassins should avoid role reversal

5. The Meeting – karma, it just comes around

6. Taken for a Ride – do your homework before kidnapping

7. Dealing with Conflict – a run leads to a run-in

8. Changing Tides –  when all around is darkness …

9. The Hostage – impulsive decisions can be fatal

10. Finger of Suspicion – the small things matter

11. The Beginning of the End – how far would you go for science?

12. Escape – you must know when to get out

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Why have these books taken so long to reach this point?

Over the past two years, I’ve been working on something special which I’ll blog about before the end of the year. The secret project has caused me to sideline several other things, but in my opinion, this serves to maintain a freshness to all of my work.

In the meantime, thank you for your visit, and your patience.

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