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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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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Happy New Writing Year – 2019

 

There is more than a hint of deja vu as I begin this post. I started 2018 with the intention of producing two more thrillers and a new collection of short stories. Work was done on all of those projects but none were completed. The reasons were many and various.

Among the many other projects I did complete last year, in the erotica genre I published: two novels, a novella, and an anthology of short stories, all of which I found easier, though no less time-consuming than my planned books. If I’m not enjoying what I’m producing, it isn’t going to be my best.

Here I am once again with the same intentions as 2018, but in a better frame of mind to get the job done.

I may not produce as many titles this year, but I feel confident I have sufficient work done to ease my early progress into each of my main writing projects. In an effort to improve my focus I’ve refreshed/improved the proposed covers.

Codename: Nightshade is a crime thriller. The book is a standalone, and spin-off from the Beyond The Law trilogy. Rachel Donoghue is the central character and depending on your viewpoint—the heroine. For now, I think that’s enough to know about this one.

Czech Mate is a crime thriller based on the activities and adventures (or misadventures), of a young Scottish artist and gallery proprietor. The reading of his late father’s will is the kicking-off point for the tale, and apart from his native Scotland, he finds himself in Central Europe—mainly Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.

One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is a new anthology, although some of the stories have been in my files for a few years. They are of a wide variety of genre, similar to other anthologies I’ve produced which have proved popular.

Rather than predict an exact publication date for any of this work, I’d suggest it will be out there when it’s good and ready.

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What else have I got lined up this writing year?

I have four erotica titles at various stages and a book of poetry of the same genre. They are detailed on the dedicated website—Tom Benson – Erotica.

I will be reading as much as possible, as usual, and I’ll be mentoring, beta-reading and helping my peers whenever I can.

I’ll be continuing to offer as much support as possible to any individual or group projects being produced by the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group. 

The production of more paperbacks will probably be put on hold—they don’t sell in sufficient numbers to make the investment of time worthwhile, and at least in my case they are aimed more at giving to charitable causes, or as gifts.

There you have it—a summary of my proposed writing year, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

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Did I do anything of importance regarding writing during 2018?

In late December I reread On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. If you’re a writer and you have yet to read that book I would suggest you are doing yourself and your proposed readership a disservice. As I reach the end of this post, for the benefit of my peers who may not have read the book, here is an excerpt from one of the final paragraphs:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”- Stephen King.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft links: Amazon dot UK ….. Amazon dot com

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What else have I been up to in my writing world?

As recently as the end of December 2018 I spent an entire day working to update and improve this blog. I removed a needless heading from my main menu and set up a new one—Samples of my work. If you’d care to visit the new feature you will find samples of complete short stories of various genre, individual poems of different genre and examples of my serial poetry.

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If you are a fellow scribe, I hope you have a wonderful, productive year ahead. If you’re a reader, may you find yourself absorbed in many a good story, and if you’re a reviewer, I hope you like my work.

Thank you for reading, and as always, comments are not only welcome but encouraged.

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Rhyme & REASON – Now Available

 

The importance of the work in this collection could easily be overlooked, but I’ll say why later in the post. For now, I will tell you that most of the contents have never been published outside of a poetry site.

My first efforts at creative writing (where it would be seen), were with poetry in 2007. It took a few individual pieces to get the hang of it and then I felt the need to take things a stage further—the serial poem, or as some call it, ‘story’ poem.

Again, my early efforts were relatively short, at perhaps a series of two, three, or four poems, but I always aimed to have a logical introduction and a satisfactory ending. The stories got longer and the plots more intricate and in a short time, I was recognised as the ‘serial’ poet on the website. The acclaim I received must have gone to my head because the serial poems got longer.

Why do I suggest that the work in this collection is important?

Honey, my New York detective was born and raised in a poem series. Yes, the main character in the novel A Taste of Honey. The story may not be the same, but the idea and the general background supplied the idea of a young woman capable of deadly vengeance.

Anybody who has read my Beyond the Law trilogy will be acquainted with Hawk, the codename for the main character. The Hawk was an individual poem, but it was so well received I had to go on—for twenty-six poems.

Many of my short stories started life as a simple poem, long before they evolved into detailed stories within an anthology. Pawnee Express, and Anne: Illegal Alien both come to mind.

As I do with all of my writing, I aim to entertain, but with my poetry, I work hard to demonstrate that anybody can write poetry and on any topic. Many of the poems in this collection were written to meet a poetry challenge, like tackling a certain subject, and this to me was a crucial lesson–you don’t know until you try.

What can you expect to find in this anthology?

Romans, Cowboys and Indian, Medieval England, Fantasy, Terrorism, Thriller, Military, Sci-Fi and more. For those who’ve never read my poetry, I’ve included a selection of work from my genre-based poetry anthologies.

I know, I know—I’m holding you back from downloading the book.

If you’re curious, I’ve added three samples to the Rhyme & Reason sub-menu on this blog.

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Thank you for reading.

On Top of The Covers

 

No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.

As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.

Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.

My attempt

Where do you first find the title?

Oh yes, on the cover.

I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.

 

How have I dealt with covers so far?

I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.

Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.

Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?

Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.

I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in PanamaAmsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Do I make exceptions?

Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.

My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brand feel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.

 

What’s my next step?

Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.

 

As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.

 

The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.

 

I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take

 

Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.

Happy New Writing Year – 2018

 

I’d like to start this new year by celebrating ‘firsts’.

This is the first month of 2018, and the start of my first full year of retirement. I’ve had a few weeks practice to get accustomed to the idea. To celebrate, I’ve reduced the price of all of my ‘first‘ in series to a mere 99p (or equivalent), and it’s an ongoing promotion.

Click on graphic to go to my website

 

What are my main targets for the writing year ahead?

– I have novels underway and intend to publish them this year.

– I aim to resurrect pages of notes and compile another anthology of short stories.

Czech Mate – a thriller set in Scotland and the Czech Republic.

Codename: Nightshade – a spinoff from my successful Beyond The Law trilogy.

One Man: Two Missions, and other stories – a collection of short stories and flash fiction.

What could be better than two more novels and another anthology?

I also intend to produce:

Curious and Camping – an erotic novel.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories – a collection of 12 short stories.

The updates and details of these two titles appear on Tom Benson – Erotica.

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Apart from my titles:

–  I’ll be assisting my distant friend and fellow author Carmen Lopez to compile her second anthology. Carmen is the author of Alone: and other short stories

– More reading and reviewing will be in order.

– I will continue to work with the other members of the IASD to produce the next anthologies we’ve planned.

– This may be the year I finally tackle the idea of a paperback version of my titles. I have the first in mind, but I’ll keep the title under wraps until I’ve made progress — or I need help.

– I’ll continue to go out on my bike rides to do a lot of my thinking and planning. My choice of ride affects my thought process, but more of that in a later post.

– I’ll also be drawing and painting, which are wonderful pursuits to allow ideas to develop.

– This year I will try my latest hobby – baking. What has that got to do with writing, you might ask. It depends on the results, but at present, I’m hoping that like cycling, it will allow my mind to wander. I can’t promise to publish pictures of my early failures, but I will no doubt let you see my successes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

May the new year be as good to you as you wish.

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Writing is series work ….

2016-so-far

Graphic links to Anthologies page of author website.

Before this year got underway I set myself certain targets regarding my writing. Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking. Yes, it’s the mainstay of our marketing for self-published authors, but I’m working on the theory – if I have more titles with quality time spent on them, it’s better than pushing the present catalogue.

I’m delighted to report I’ve been true to my goals … for most of the time. In the past I’ve gone from conducting a minimum of marketing to going overboard, and this year I’ve aimed to strike a balance.

I tend not to advertise too much prior to publication of a title, and so far, I haven’t embraced the ‘pre-order’ idea. This year so far I’ve produced five titles, but none were rushed. Due to my method of working, I have three projects underway at any given time. I may work on one book for a week or a month, and when it is left to simmer, I pull up one of the others. Of the five titles in the banner above three of them had been rewritten several times before 2016.

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Working on different projects in such a way may not appeal to everybody, but I’ve found it maintains my interest, and my productivity – if I avoid the distraction of social media.

iasd-globe-2I have an allegiance to, and certain responsibilities regarding the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it’s never a hardship to work towards the success of the group. The IASD has been and will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has come about, in the sense I’ve continued with my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. This month the free book appears on the 15th/16th.

Apart from the regular free books, I update the News page of my author website monthly, and the detail is posted in all the usual places.

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What have I got in store for the remainder of this year?

I’m presently sharing my writing time between four projects. Before the end of the year I’m hoping to publish: the third title in the series A Life of Choice, the final part of the Beyond The Law trilogy, and if the characters will misbehave for me – the third in the Highland Games erotica novella series.

The fourth project (not shown in graphic), is my next anthology Temptation: and other short stories, which is under constant revision.

part-threes

Of the aforementioned titles I’ve discovered a peculiarity. The Highland Games series carries the lowest priority for me, but when I feel the need to get away from another project, or I simply want to escape into a world of fantasy, the words flow easily with my erotica series.

When I’m out and about in life and my notebook makes an appearance, it is invariably to jot down a new idea, character, or situation for one of the series.

However the rest of my writing year goes, my readership may rest assured I’ll be putting every effort into producing my best entertainment.

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

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Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Click graphic for book blurb.

If you’ve been kind enough to check out this post I think it’s fair to drop a subtle hint about Tom’s two-day freebie for October ….

This was my first romance, but has recently been revisited.