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

Beyond The Law: Retribution

Yes, it’s finally here. The sequel to Beyond The Law has been available on Amazon since 7th November. The original story was a joy to write, apart from being hard work at times, so it’s great to see it is still my best selling tale.Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

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In Beyond The Law: Retribution, it was great fun bringing Phil and his team back to life to create more crime-busting scenes, and the inevitable summary justice. As there were in the first book you will find good deeds, bad deeds, crime and punishment.

Apart from Phil, and the BTL team there are a couple of new faces, but to maintain balance, there are some old and new faces on the other side of the equation. Bad guys are easy to come by, but they have to be different. The BTL team now have a name and a new operations HQ.

BTL RetributionAllies and enemies come in many forms, and in this story you will find they don’t come any more different than a motorbike gang. The aroma of whatever they’re smoking, the feel of leather jackets, and the sight of long unruly hair and beards, combined with the power and noise of motorbikes.

Are they violent?

Well, of course they’re violentthey’re outlaw bikers.

Okay, so I opened by saying it was fun bringing back the original characters, but this is my first sequel and I found it hard work. Threading in enough, but not too much of the original story was difficult, so I look forward (with trepidation) to find out if I’ve created the right feel.

Map of Scotland, plan of BTL Enterprises HQ, and map of Glasgow.

Maps of Scotland and Glasgow. Plan of BTL headquarters.

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The titles above are linked to the pages of this blog which are dedicated to these two books, so if you haven’t read the blurbs, you can see them there. There are live Amazon links available there.

I’ll leave the links here to take you directly to Amazon, and then dear reader it’s up to you.

Beyond The Law

Amazon UK                    Amazon US

Beyond The Law: Retribution 

Amazon UK                    Amazon US

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Sales are always appreciated, as they are by any author, but I would also appreciate feedback. If you have the time, and hopefully enjoyed the story, please consider leaving a review.

That’s it for now. I’m off to work on my sci-fi anthology, and maybe read …

Work in Progress ?

My fuel tank ... and a message.All writers have them, but it’s down to the individual if it is a shelved idea, or a work in progress (WIP).

What’s the difference?

Like all topics I post, this is a matter of personal opinion and experience – and not the result of a deep, and prolonged survey of thousands of hours of discussion. I believe there is a stark difference in this case.

Editing - Amsterdam Calling

What do I consider a shelved idea?

As I tend to do, I write about what I know, including my blog articles.

The following are ‘shelved’ as opposed to WIP.

1 – I have an abundance of titles – yes, only the titles.

2 – I also have around 20 short stories which have been started. This doesn’t mean I’ve opened a file and given a title – it means I’ve written at least an intro paragraph, or more in some cases.

3 – The shelved ideas category also includes the ‘ideas’ which are still in my head. I don’t like to think of myself being busier than anybody else because I’ve got a head full of ideas.

Every writer should have a head full of ideas.

What do I consider a work in progress?

At the time of writing (31st October 2015), here is my WIP:

1 Beyond The Law: Retribution.BTL Retribution

This is the sequel to my most popular title so far. Understandably, I’m working hard to produce my best.

I’m presently reading it aloud, line by line, and using a red pen to highlight minor issues before final tweaking and formatting.

Publication date is 7th November 2015.

 

2The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

The WelcomeThis is not a single title of course, but a collection. I will be supplying eight of the stories. Four other stories will be supplied by guest authors. If you’d like to take part, please see the recent, relevant post:

(The Weclome) – plus details of the invitation to add a short story to an anthology.

Three of my stories in this collection have been published previously in other anthologies. Another three are new and completed, while the final two are completed, but I don’t like the endings – yet.

Of the four stories coming in from guests, I have two firm and in my file, one being reworked, and there is no show as yet from the fourth.

I’m determined that any anthology I publish will have at least 12 titles, so if necessary I will write another title to make up the shortfall.

3 A Time for Courage: and other military stories.A Time for Courage - 1

This is another anthology, for which I’ve invited at least four guest authors. The offer is still open.

Three of my stories in this collection are previously published elsewhere in anthologies. The other five are at various stages of completion. A satisfactory ending is paramount for me with a short story, so it’s an area that will affect a completion date for any of my work.

4A Life of Choice – Volume 1.

This is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

ALOC - Vol 1It is a fictional tale, but based on my life. The story started as my autobiography many years ago when I could type … but I couldn’t write. I’m now fairly confident in my ability to do both, although how good a writer I am is not for me to say.

Instead of one book, this story will now be written as a series, which will allow me to take it into the years after the military career.

I believe the post-military character of a person is as important to understand as the boy-to-career soldier.

Much of what will be in the various volumes will be true events, where only a name or two have changed, but some scenes will be completely from my imagination.

I’m always working on this series in the background, but until I’m happy with the first three volumes, there will be nothing published from the series. (Volume 1 should be out by March 2016)

My theory is that I have to know if the idea is worth the effort. To be fair to readers and give the project a healthy chance, I feel I must give at least a good bite of the cherry – or in this case, three volumes, all at low prices.

Well, there you go my faithful, and possibly some new followers.

In a nutshell, if it’s a work in progress (WIP), to my way of thinking – you are ‘working’ on it.

Thank you once again for putting up with me and my theories.

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PS. I’ve used a little bit of artistic license. I am in the bottom picture of A Life of Choice, but I’m not a recruit. 😀

Elementary to Erotica – my journey so far

Kindle Edition Normalised Pages - Sept.

Like the Kindle Edition Normalised Pages, writing is a life of peaks and troughs

I am always keen to learn about a fellow author’s route, from those tentative steps of composing a first piece of work, to first publication and beyond. Irrespective of age, or experience, the early days are the most difficult, as they are with most ventures.

An introIt’s good for a writer’s morale to take stock occasionally, but publicly like this. It’s also self-marketing, but we can’t hide our light under a bushel, because therein lies obscurity.

My story may not be awe-inspiring, but I’ve reached another stage with my latest release.

Now is a good time for me to take a look back.

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In 1992, following a military career of 23 years, I next took up retail management, which I did for 20 years. In the mid-90’s I started to write my military memoirs. It took over two years and the writing was abysmal. I abandoned the memoirs, and over the next few years I wrote short stories for my own amusement, not knowing anything of the required discipline.

In 2007 I wrote a rhyme whilst on a coffee break. A colleague told me I should join an online poetry site. I did and I wrote 700+ poems in three years, but felt the need to do something more.Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

I read short stories and books on how to write them, whilst I practised. I took out a subscription to a national writing magazine. In 2010 I won a competition and had my story included in an anthology. Poetry was left behind, as I spent every available minute producing ideas to create short stories.

I joined a website and a local writing group and learned much from having my work critiqued. I’d long had a yearning to write a novel, but felt it was beyond me. My first novel was inspired by a fellow poet on the other side of the world. We’d reviewed each other’s poetry and kept in touch. I’m delighted to say that our friendship has remained firm and we continue to support each other.

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904In December 2012 I published ‘Ten Days in Panama’, a romance-based thriller. I knew it wasn’t great, but I had introduced aspects of the thriller, and I knew I had to write something more exciting. It was a steep learning curve, just as it had been with short stories. I used the manuscript ‘rest’ periods as a time to continue writing short stories.

In October 2013 I published ‘Beyond The Law’, a crime thriller about a vigilante in Glasgow. During breaks from my novels, I honed my 12 best short stories to create an anthology. In May 2014 I published ‘Smoke & Mirrors and other short stories’.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

When I read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ I was disappointed in the content. I got the impression that the author had a good idea, but minimal knowledge of her subject. I am amazed at the success of that series.

I had experimented with writing erotic stories, but they’d never been seen. I thought back over my life experiences and decided I had the knowledge and imagination to adapt them and create a variety of scenarios. In June 2014 I published my second short story anthology ‘Coming Around and other erotic stories’.

Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714My work on thrillers continued. In July 2014 I published ‘Amsterdam Calling’, a psychological thriller. Since moving on from poetry, my practice had been to work on more than one project simultaneously, so my next book was at an advanced stage.

I published ‘A Taste of Honey’ in December 2014. It was another vigilante story, but this time about a rogue female detective – in the US.

From late 2014 into early 2015 I had a handful of private messages asking if I’d ever considered writing an erotic novel. These were not random queries, but from folk who had read my erotic anthology. Just as I had with my poetry a few years before, I sensed a challenge, but once again, a challenge I relished.A Taste of Honey

In September 2015, I completed the final draft of ‘Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica’. It has sold almost daily since publication.

Give and Take - the final coverIf my first attempt at an erotic novel receives positive reviews, I will be happy to produce a sequel. It has two reviews already.

Whether or not I find success in the world of erotica I’ll continue to write thrillers, but there is escape in writing contrasting genre.

I would suggest to any writer who feels the urge to try a new genre – do it. Don’t let anybody hold you back with their opinions. You owe it to yourself – and your readers.

In November 2015 I aim to publish ‘Acts of Vengeance’, the sequel to ‘Beyond The Law’.Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

One of the greatest things we can all do as indie authors is to support our peers. Try to read other indie authors, and provide reviews. Make an effort to read widely in genre – it really does pay dividends.

Another good idea is to do as I’ve done here, and produce an occasional update on progress. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written one book so far, let people know you are out there.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Feedback is always welcome.

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A Taste of Honey – KCD promotion result

At the end of March 2015, I used the Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD) to promote A Taste of Honey.

I’d never used the KCD promotional tool before, but I had to know if it was effective. The idea is that the title is set at the lowest possible price, and then the author sets increments to move the price up every day or every other day. By the end of the week the title is back to regular pricing.

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Did the KCD promotion work for me?
Yes, I’d say it did. I gave average figures at the time, but I’ve since calculated the sales of the individual title. Over a six day period there were 50 downloads across the various price settings for the promotional book.

Did the KCD promotion work in any other way?
Yes, the promotion achieved a few things for me.

1. A Taste of Honey has been selling almost every day since the promotion.

2. For the first time since publishing A Taste of Honey in December last year, it has overtaken Beyond The Law in daily sales. To put that point in perspective, since a few days after publishing Beyond The Law in October 2013, there has hardly been a day when that title hasn’t sold at least one copy.

3. I’ve seen an increase in sales in the Amazon.com arena which was one of my aims.

4. I have also enjoyed an increase in sales of my other novels and my short story anthologies since the promotion. All of my titles are listed in the back of each of my books, so if a reader enjoys any one of my books, the other titles are there at the back with a blurb. I’ve found it’s better to capture the reader with the title they bought, and then that book must act as my publicity machine.

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Will I use the KCD with any other titles in the future?
Yes.

Would I recommend the KCD to other indie authors?
Yes.

If you bought into my brand during the promotion or since, I’m grateful to you.

As always, thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 4

Courage - Part 4In Part 1 on this topic, I wrote about using a basic three verse poem to expand on a story idea.

 

 

In Part 2, I took it to the next level with three more verses to beef up the information about the story.

In Part 3, I listed the ingredients I would consider when writing a short story.

I have now written a short story from scratch, based on that simple poem displayed in Part 1 and Part 2. Until I completed the story, I used the same working title as used with the poem. A working title allows the writer to get on with the writing. Too much time can be spent procrastinating about the right title.

Like everything else you’ll read in my blog, I have my own theory with regard to titles. I believe it’s much better to work on the title after the story is written. The story may change slightly from the original idea (which mine did), but the title must still do its job – and attract interest. As soon as the first draft of my story was done I found I’d gone over my self-imposed 1500 word limit by 150 words, so I trimmed it to 1500 words.

I saved the story and then spent about 15 minutes writing out every title idea that came to mind. The whole story was fresh in my mind so I ended up with about 20 titles. Titles are easy, but the appropriate title is the one that works. Here are my top three:

– Death and Glory
– Diary of a Warrior
– A Time for Courage

In my final post on this topic I’ll produce the short story, which by then will only have been edited in a couple of rapid sessions, so it may yet change. I do feel it will still round off the task I set myself with this mini-series of posts.

Remember, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use this system to write a novel. My novel ‘Beyond The Law’ started out as an experimental poem, which stretched into a series of 26 poems.

As always, thank you for your indulgence.

 

T … is for Taboos

T[1] is for taboos. Nothing is taboo to a writer these days, or so you might think, but I would disagree.

I’d like to put that statement in perspective before we get into the body of this post.

I was a soldier for 23 years, and the first 7 of those, I was single. To say I lived a colourful life would be a massive understatement. More on that later, but please remember that this is a guide, based on my opinion.

Which areas are possible taboos?

There will be more, but there are areas where I would tread carefully. They include: rape, child abuse, torture, the disabled, the elderly, religion, poverty, addiction, racism, alcoholism, bestiality, gratuitous violence, and successful criminality (crime paying is not a good theme).

I know, I know. There will be some of you asking what is left?. I’m not saying we shouldn’t include or describe any of these things in our writing. I use several of them in my novel, ‘Beyond The Law’, but I don’t glorify any of them. Some modern writers can write a rape or domestic abuse scene, but it’s not done in a style that sounds gratuitous – it is done to fit in with the style and the genre of the book.

The best way I can think of describing the use of a taboo subject is to take care with your portrayal. It would be wrong to suggest that these themes or topics don’t exist, because they do, but it’s how they are used in writing that can make them work without being offensive or degrading.

Is there a simple guide?

I believe that there is. My own method is to use my own writer’s conscience.

What is my writer’s conscience?

My personal writer’s conscience is what I’m left with when I filter out the extremes of social conscience. There are many out there in our world who take political correctness to an unbelievable level. I’m talking about racism, sexism, sexuality, vulgarity, etc. When I write about such things, it’s not my opinion that is voiced; it is the opinion or voice of the character. Even so, I don’t use my characters as a cover for abuse of any sort.

If I wouldn’t like to read it; I don’t write it.

How do we recognise personal taboos?

If I’m reading horror, I want to be so terrified that I don’t want to continue reading in a dark room, with only a table lamp on.

If I’m reading erotica, I want to be aroused, and might prefer to be reading in a dark room with only a table lamp … (Yes, I know, too much information). lol

If I’m reading any story and I find it distasteful or the content is simply for the writer’s gratification, I stop reading it. This has happened more than once for me. Two things I don’t like are: bad writing, and stories written for those with morbid tastes.

That is how I recognise personal taboos, and how I’ve developed my writer’s conscience. I hope it hasn’t been too boring a journey today. As I said at the introduction; I’m not, and never have been a prude, but I do still have standards.

There was a hint at the introduction that I would say more about the colourful lifestyle I enjoyed before marrying. One of my next novels is, ‘A Life of Choice’, which is fact-based fiction. I’ve been working on it for several years, but I will aim to complete it this year. It will of course be publicised right here.

Thank you as always for your patronage, and I look forward to any comments, which I will of course reply to. I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘U’.

Q … is for Question

Q[1] is for question. No, this is not a single question we’re looking at here, but for me, it is the single most important aspect of our writing. We must question everything we do.

To put this into some sort of perspective, I will once again use my own experience. This does not mean I’m so vain that I believe my methods are the way forward, but I will give some background information as we go along.

Why do I believe I know anything about this?

For the benefit of any who have not read my bio, I’ll simply use my main figures here. Since 2008, I’ve written 700+ poems, 30+ short stories, and 2 novels. I’m presently working on my third novel. Those figures are modest, rather than astounding, but they will help to make my point.

What do we question?

Poetry: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the form, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

Short Stories: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

Novels: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the market, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

It wouldn’t take much to see that there is something of a pattern in those three very different disciplines. There is also a lot of repetition, and there is good reason. It doesn’t matter which type of writing we create; if it’s for public consumption, we must produce our best.

What do I question the most?

Title, title, title, title … . You may now be getting the impression that the title is quite important to me. Whether writing poetry, short stories, or a novel, I agonise over the title. It is the simplest, shortest component of a piece of writing, but it is such a key element; it must work. Instead of dealing with poetry or short stories I’ll use novels to demonstrate my point.

In the next 48 hours I will be commencing what I hope to be the final draft of ‘Amsterdam Calling’, my third novel. I’m happy with the title, and how I chose it. The selection process allowed me to concentrate on my writing and editing. It was a distraction with my first novel.

How do I deal with title?

I make a very short list of perhaps three working titles. One of these is chosen quickly to let me get on with the writing. In a notebook, and on my clipboard pad I keep a page, purely for title ideas for that piece of work. Immediately an idea comes to me; I add it to the list. That system works continually, but is not a distraction.

At the point where I have the story written, I have a better idea of the entire concept and it might then affect the title choice. I take time to relax with a coffee, and I think of the whole story, allowing the various scenes to play on my memory. As this goes on, I write down everything that could be an intriguing title.

Why must the title be intriguing?

I’ll respond to that with another question. Apart from the cover, what prompts your interest in a book? The cover and title are your first sales pitches, and their job is to draw your prospective reader to the jacket blurb (see ‘J’). The blurb captures the interest and is the big pitch.

Before arriving at ‘Ten Days in Panama’, I had a list of seven possible titles. When I reached the end of ‘Beyond The Law’, I had actually changed the working title twice. I had five hot contenders waiting in the wings to be the title of that one. For ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I had a list of seven which never grew as I wrote the early drafts. As soon as I considered ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I knew it was the one.

I know I’ve chosen title as my one aspect to ‘question’, but we do owe it to ourselves, and our readers; to question everything we write.

Thank you once again for sticking with me to the end of this piece. I hope that somewhere, somebody has had a moment of enlightenment. LOL.

Today, apart from doing my blog patrol, I’ll be working on my anthology of short stories. I’ll see you guys on Monday when I’ll be dealing with ‘R’.

 

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 …