Tag Archives: Beyond The Law

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 …  

 

Great Expectations?

Disturbed at work ... or just disturbed?
Disturbed at work … or just disturbed?

 You want to be a writer – so you write. Once you feel you have a flair for it, the next natural notion is to be a successful writer – yes, then that sordid subject of money rears its head. In some cases, the decision to join a class or group is a no-brainer. Surely that’s going to be the next step, it will help to set you up as the next great thing in the literary world. Isn’t it?    

How hard can it be to come up with an idea, string a few sentences together, build them into paragraphs, and then block the paragraphs into chapters. Give it a title. Oh my goodness – a book!

Marathon runners don’t normally set out to master that gruelling discipline. They will usually go through an apprenticeship of sprints, middle-distance, cross-country and finally, having altered their training regime, they feel they are ready for the big one.

In terms of writing, I’ve discovered a lot of folk have served a similar apprenticeship with their writing. It seems to follow the pattern of; poetry, short stories, flash-fiction, novella, novel. Okay, in some cases there are those that go straight from one of the early stages to novel writing. There are even those few who go straight for the big one.

What’s the next logical decision to be made? Traditional publishing, or eBook?

A tropical romance.
A tropical romance.

Now we come to the crux of the thing. At this point we must do what many people have difficulty with … and be honest with ourselves. Are we in it for the pleasure of writing, to entertain, to make money, or a mixture of the aforementioned?We must consider our answer before we go back to that publishing question. Why? It’s quite simple.

If we go down the traditional route, we will be spending money on our hopes of recouping the outlay with sufficient sales. All the months of effort must go through the time-consuming, filtering process of proof-reading, copy editing, etc. Does the style work? Is the grammar good enough? How accurate is the punctuation? Oh yes, that’s apart from questions raised on title, plot, characterisation, imagery and whether there is any entertainment value. The traditional route can take many months after the story is written.

Personally, I have no desire to be famous. My driving force is to entertain and as a by-product of that, I’d like to achieve some success – which isn’t the same as being famous. What have I done about it?          

In 2007, I started on poetry at Starlite, and then progressed to short stories and flash-fiction. I tried writing a novel, but was honest enough with myself to know that I wasn’t learning enough from my reading, or my reference books. I joined local writing group, the Inkerman Writers under the leadership of John Dean, journalist and crime novelist. Within the environment of a writing group, an aspiring writer learns if they have any ability in the use of words. It’s not pleasant to hear that what you thought was good, is actually not, but isn’t that what ‘feedback’ is all about?

A vigilante in Glasgow
A vigilante in Glasgow

  I’ve produced two novels in the last two years, ’10 Days in Panama’, and ‘Beyond The Law’. I’ve gone through the journey of at least four drafts with each story, and had the satisfaction of formatting the manuscripts myself. I’ve self-published my stories as eBooks on Amazon. In both cases I’ve gone on to publish fresh editions – because I found issues when I downloaded them and read again as a writer.

My books may not be ‘bestsellers’ and they may not bring me fortune and fame, but they have sold in six countries so far and I’ve had several decent reviews. The only ‘Great Expectations’ I have is the copy on my Kindle, but I’m enjoying what I do, and also the thought that my efforts have entertained. In that respect I’ve achieved my aims.My third novel, ‘Discovering Amsterdam’ is already underway. It is a romance laced with intrigue and my first objective is to submit it to New Writing North as a contender for the Northern Writers’ Awards 2014.

Why the analogy with running? In my running days, I started at 200-metre sprints, moved onto cross-country, 5000 metres and then competed in half-marathons and marathons.

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment.

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

  

A long and winding road

I published my crime thriller ‘Beyond The Law’ in early October right on schedule, which was good because the next day I headed to the Scottish HIghlands to chill out for a week – and it’s easy to ‘chill out’ in the Highlands in October.

The road through the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands
The road through the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands

My novel tells the story of Phil McKenzie, an exSAS soldier who is framed for an assassination. He returns to his hometown, Glasgow – as Hawk, a vigilante. He then recruits a small team and tackles organised crime head on.

As usual I aim to link my graphic with my post and this one is no different. What is the relevance of the picture? Just like the road through the Cairngorms from Braemar to Blairgowrie, I faced many twists and turns with my novel.

It was a long road with my hero being brought to life in a poem in May 2008. My character ‘Hawk’ attracted interest and good reviews, so the poem became a series of 35 poems. In November 2011, Hawk became a novel written in 30 straight days during my first attempt at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

During 2012 I started a serious rewrite with various working titles, the favourite being,  ‘Hawk – A Vigilante’. On completion I left it aside for about six months before revisiting the manuscript. When I started work on it again early this year I set myself a target date for completion of late September/early October.

I’m delighted to say I met my deadline. I set it up for a one-day Free promotion on Amazon on Saturday, 12th October and I’m pleased to say it was downloaded over 100 times and sold 5 copies. Interested readers came from UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Italy and India. Now I have to hope that the story works for all those people.

My aim for this week is to relax and paint some scenes from my recent Scottish holiday. Where did I stay? I rented ‘Treasure Island Cottage’ in Braemar – so called, because it’s where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote part of the famous book, ‘Treasure Island’.

Thank you for reading – I’ll be back soon with news of my new romance novel, set in Amsterdam.

Link to ‘Beyond The Law’ on Amazon.co.uk

Link to ‘Beyond The Law’ on Amazon.com

Beyond The Law

Design by Andrew Benson (my son).
Cover design by Andrew Benson.

The first five chapters of ‘Beyond The Law’, my crime thriller are posted on my blog. Why not give them a read and see what you think.

Here’s an overview of the story:

In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa.

An assassin codenamed ‘Chameleon’ kills the Kentobi president, but it’s Phil who is framed for murder. To appease the authorities he agrees to a brief secondment with the Metropolitan Police and then discharge from the Army.

During his short attachment to the ‘Met’, he sees how the hands of the authorities are tied. It reminds him that the teenager who murdered his parents in 1977 was never caught to face justice.      

Phil returns to his hometown in July 1996 as Hawk, a vigilante. The term ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld.

***

The e-book is available on Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=beyond+the+law

and on Amazon.co.ukhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-The-Law-ebook/dp/B00FMZ7LQ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381043818&sr=1-1&keywords=beyond+the+law

At less than $3.10 / £2.00 – it’s worth a look …

If you don’t have an e-reader, Try this link: Free Kindle App for Laptop, PC and Tablet

I’ll be back in a few days with an update, but for now I need a rest. Enjoy and please feel free to give leave feedback here or on my website at: www.tom-benson.co.uk