Codename: Nightshade – Update

 

Beyond The Law was my first serious crime thriller and was so successful it had to be retitled, Beyond The Law: Formation as I learned the joys and pitfalls of writing a sequel, and ultimately—a trilogy.

The BTL trilogy titles; Formation, Retribution, and Consequences were published in 2013, 2015, and 2017 respectively, and I have to admit, I was satisfied when the job was completed. The characters and the ongoing story appealed to many readers, but as the author, I always had a soft spot for Rachel Donoghue.

Before I published the third book in the BTL trilogy I had a yearning to choose a character and create an individual story, so it will come as no surprise that I selected my personal favourite.

I wrote a few experimental passages and then shelved the idea—it needed a fresh start, and the best way I knew, would be to work on other projects and return to my ‘spinoff’ idea occasionally.

It’s two years later, and I’ve brought the various chapters together, many of which had been reworked multiple times. Before it reaches the standard for beta readers to chew it over, it stands at 117, 000 words, 37 Chapters and an epilogue.

If I can entice a few good people to beta read the manuscript sometime in mid-August, I would like to aim for publication by 16th September 2019.

Could I tempt you to be a beta reader?

I have the ‘rough’ drafts of the first three chapters here on my blog under Work in Progress, Codename: Nightshade. A few lovely people have left comments on Chapter 1.

Thank you for the visit and any comments or suggestions.

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One step beyond … Beyond The Law

 

Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.

Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.

Beyond The Law: Formation was published in 2013, Beyond The Law: Retribution in 2015, and Beyond The Law: Consequences in 2017. In terms of timing, I’d be on target now to produce the next if it were an ongoing series.

I have no worries about a continuing story, but I enjoy stretching my writing creativity in different directions, which is why I ended the Beyond The Law (BTL) idea and proclaimed it a trilogy.

As a reader and a writer, certain characters lend themselves to the spotlight and become favourites. For me as an author, one such character is Rachel Donoghue. When the BTL trilogy ended, the door was left open for several characters to make another appearance. Rachel was crying out to be given a standalone adventure. From this premise was born Codename: NightshadeRachel’s antics will provide continuity, closure in certain areas, and further entertainment for those who have enjoyed the BTL trilogy.

As a precursor and to get me in the right frame of mind I recently reread and made several edits to each book of the BTL trilogy. Plot and detail were not affected, but some dialogue and narrative were tightened to improve the reading experience.

In the new story, a few names from the past from both sides of the law will show up, combined with new good guys, and new bad guys. This will not be a fourth BTL story, but by its nature, it will lean in that direction. The key aspect of the tale for me is to highlight an individual character.

The first five chapters of Codename: Nightshade all appear in my Work in Progress menu. They’re not the finished article, but they give a flavour of how this individual character will demonstrate her skills and how much promise she has as a central protagonist. As an author, I’m thoroughly enjoying expanding my notes and ideas, many of which have been made over the past year. For me, Rachel is already real, and out there doing her best … to the worst.

I aim to produce the book in June 2019, which means that by May I hope to be asking for beta readers to help refine the tale.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and in particular, thank you to the followers of the BTL story. I have to go now … gangsters, guns and a girl are waiting for me. 🙂

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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

Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

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

 

Happy New Writing Year – 2017

Turning a new page is how some of us judge the prospect of a new writing year. In December 2016 I assessed the centre of my writing world – my study. Okay, it’s a converted bedroom but it’s been my study for several years – the title has been earned.

During a domestic re-hash I cleared out my 20-year-old desk, complete with the hutch shelving. I re-organised my stationery, research material, notice boards and other accessories. The year ahead is important for me in several ways, but more of that later.

My head was buzzing with ideas for 2017, and refreshed surroundings was the way to go.

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My writing targets for the forthcoming year:

  1. Beyond The Law: Consequences. Conclusion of the trilogy.
  2. A Life of Choice – Part Four.
  3. A Life of Choice – Part Five. Conclusion of the series. I have two choices of graphic for the final part of the story. In both cases the graphic is a spoiler, so I’ll leave the question mark until closer to publication.
  4. Temptation: and other stories. My usual offering – twelve varied tales.
  5. Highland Games – 3: An Erotica Novella.
  6. Highland Games – 4: An Erotica Novella.
  7. Highland Games – 5: An Erotica Novella. Conclusion of the series.
  8. Prepare a standalone story / spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.
  9. Instead of attempting to produce one of my novels as a paperback using CreateSpace, which would be ambitious and affect other projects – I’ll study the issues of the paperback option, ready for 2018.
  10. Maintenance of the IASD blog/website, and continued support of our members in whatever capacity I am able. This includes reading, reviewing, and beta-reading.
happy-new-writing-year-2017-2

Three of the aforementioned titles are beyond fourth draft, and another is at an advanced stage.

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I tend not to use my blog posts as a personal diary however, for the benefit of my peers and my readership I’d like to clarify my position as we set off into the new year.

In 2012, I reached the 20-year point in my second career; Retail Management. I was in the early stages of my writing career and gave careful consideration to my options. As I progressed from poetry, to short stories, and novels – I stepped down in stages in my retail work. I went from manager, to deputy manager, to part-time deputy manager – to sales assistant.

Many of my retail colleagues have been incredulous to see a person steadily letting go of the reins of power. What might not have been so obvious to them in the process was the shedding of responsibility and the accompanying stress. A lot of the stress was self-inflicted due to my prediliction for maintaining the highest possible standards – whatever issues might have been affecting the various tasks I had, or stores I managed.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working locally and on a part-time, three-day week basis. My change of circumstances is largely responsible for the increased production in my creative writing.

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Summer – 2016

2017 will be a landmark year in two main ways. In March I’ll celebrate being married to Olive for 40 years, and early in November I will achieve retirement age (65). I intend to stop working for other people in October.

It will come as no surprise I will not be wondering how to fill my time. Apart from keeping up with the myriad duties of a husband, I’ll have more time to read, draw, paint, cycle and maintain my fitness … and of course I’ll be writing.

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

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My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

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

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

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

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

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

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

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

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

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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I have planned for 2017?

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

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

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

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Why so … series?

 

Like so many creative writers, by the time I completed my first novel, Ten Days in Panama, I had grown to know my characters as if they were real people. A few of those people would be good to look at, and to have around, but like reality, others were not so endearing.

In my next big story, Beyond The Law: Formation, I had learned more about my craft and the characters became better developed much faster. I spent longer in their company, and each visit was like getting together with a few old friends.Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

When I wrote my sequel, Beyond The Law: Retribution, I got back together with characters with whom I was well-acquainted, and I enjoyed the process of the story from the outset.

BTL RetributionIt was less frustrating when the storyline veered away from my intended direction. I was also forgiving of issues as they arose. I was still the puppeteer, but in some mysterious way I had been pulled into the scenes, conversations, and struggles.

I left those characters behind to get on with other projects, but I’ve been drawn back, so among other things, I’m presently working on the final story in the trilogy, Beyond The Law: Consequences.Novel - BTL 3 Consequences

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As with poetry when I started writing, I’ve come to realise I enjoy the familiar company of certain characters, and in recent times it occurred to me to take the series idea to a new level.

A Life of Choice - Part OneFor many years I’d worked on my autobiography, but it was never fully satisfying, so rewrite after rewrite left me feeling empty. There were too many anecdotes to include, because it made the story too big, but many which were so peculiar they refused to be excluded.

Apart from anything else, even if it was fact-based-fiction, which point of view would work best?

From this train of thought evolved A Life of Choice, a fact-based-fiction novel in five parts, but each part a generous size. I’m not interested in writing a handful of short books to top up my catalogue. To date, I have the first two parts published, and Part Three will arrive in the autumn.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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I dabbled in the writing of erotica and enjoyed it, so I wondered how best to continue. I compiled a collection of short stories which was well received, so I followed it with a novel. It too received positive feedback.

How could I achieve a hybrid, I wondered?

My foray into the novella length is how I’m heading. It will be a series of inter-related stories, each longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. The novella series will start with Highland Games – 1. By mid-June I’ll be looking for beta readers for this first story.

Due to it being erotica, anyone who volunteers will remain anonymous if requested.

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The answer to the question in this blog post title, ‘Why so … series?’

By creating a series of three, five, or more stories which are interconnected – I can enjoy the company and emotions of characters I’ve come to know better than some of the real people in my life.Highland Games 1 - 150516

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I’ve learned during my reading and writing journey, in the case of some authors a series can be a method of continuing a story for the benefit of a readership. It can be a way of increasing sales by producing a series of extremely short stories, and I’m fine with either of those ideas. However, there are some series which are too short in quantity, and lacking in quality, but these are measures we find in every part of our lives.

Any books I produce as part of a series will be produced with the same care and attention to detail I devote to my other writing. I will strive to make every book a standalone, but without irritating anybody who’s read the earlier work. If I ever come up short, I can only hope it’s because a reader has a personal issue, and not because of the writing.

For me so far, writing about characters beyond a first story has produced the joy of writing about people I’ve become close to, and after the realities of life, my characters are great companions. They won’t let me down. If they do – I’ll kill them. 🙂

Thank you for reading.

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