A Life of Choice: Part One – now available

In 1992, I considered myself fortunate, not only to have completed a military career, but to have done so unscathed by mental or physical trauma. It was towards the end of that great life I considered writing my autobiography, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Most service personnel are storytellers, although many would say it wasn’t the case. To put that statement in context, if you have two or more soldiers in a truck, in the troop garages, a trench, a bar, or a social event – you will have storytelling.

My favourite setting is the ubiquitous campfire. I can recall more than one occasion sitting around with a group of guys, sometimes with beers, and sometimes with coffee. Even the memory brings a smile.

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CampfireThe scene means more to me now, as a writer.

Why?

It is where storytelling began – and in effect where my present career was born.

Prior to the written word, storytelling was how experience, instruction, and legend were passed between our ancient ancestors – and it still is in some places.

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I toyed with the idea of a straightforward, no holds barred, truthful account of 23 years of fun, fear, drunken nights and a multitude of different days, but I realised it couldn’t work. Next up was the thought of writing the chapters as individual short stories, but that method would have made it easier for real people to see themselves and others.

I followed my military career with 20 years in retail management, during which I wrote my autobiography in several styles – but always badly.

I am not foolish enough to judge if I’ve got it right this time, so I’ll have to await reviews, but the story will now be published in easily digestible parts.

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It was in 2007, I stepped down from retail management to make writing my third career, but it was only in recent times I pulled out my handwritten notes and word documents to assess what to do with my very first ‘big’ story.

Armed with the experience of writing my novels and short stories, I tackled the venture with a new attitude. The story is loosely related to my military career, but it is not an autobiography. Although I’ve chosen to write the tale in first person point of view – it is fact-based fiction.

All the ingredients are retained, but with a light-hearted tone. I sincerely hope it leaves a sense of intrigue and not frustration in the mind of the reader, to know that some events involved me, some are fictitious, and yet others are based on events that I know happened to somebody else.

A Life of Choice – Part One is now available on Amazon and is unlike anything I’ve written previously. My estimation is to complete the story in five parts, and if reviews are favourable, this is the story I would most like to produce in paperback at a later date.

The link below is an Amazon – universal link which will take you to your local Amazon.

Amazon – universal / preview / buy

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As always, thank you for reading my blog, and if you do decide to try this new title, I would appreciate a review, however short. Authors don’t ask for reviews to receive praise – they ask for them to provide feedback to let them know if they’ve achieved the primary aim, which is to entertain the reader.

Until we meet again. Thank you.

Tom

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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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Give and Take – the idea

Any venture which involves a partnership requires ‘give and take’, and it was from this perspective that I chose to attempt one of my latest projects.

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that I said, if my book, Coming Around and other erotic stories proved successful and received positive reviews, I’d consider writing an erotic novel.

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Guess what?

Okay, so I haven’t made enough money from that title to retire to a little place in the country. Neither will I be swapping spit (or anything else) with a famous author who made a fortune from a badly-plotted erotic novel which appealed to so many people – but not to me.

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How have I measured success for that particular experimental collection?

912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_1. It has been bought on a regular basis since publication.
2. It has been read by both male and female readers.
3. It has amassed a staggering seven reviews … but they are all 5*.
4. It has caused no less than four individuals to write to me asking if I’d ever consider writing an erotic novel.

That’s successful enough to give me the excuse.

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What is Give and Take about?

Essentially, it is about a relationship, and I’ve chosen to focus on the weakest part of that relationship, which is the couple’s sex-life.

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How can you write anything meaningful about a couple’s sex-life?

Some of you will wish you hadn’t asked, but whatever, read on.

Let’s all now prepare ourselves to be honest – I mean really honest.

If you are involved in a sexual relationship, is it all it could be?

Would you ever divulge your deepest fantasies to somebody else?

Would you consider spending a few days in a remote clinic, where you and your partner could indulge yourselves in activities that you have only ever dreamt about?

Are you even a little bit ‘curious’ in the sexual context?

If you are still reading, having hesitated just a few questions back – respect!

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Give and Take is the story of a young couple who have different attitudes to the sexual side of their relationship, but although both are sexually curious, they have difficulty communicating their fantasies and desires.

They find themselves at breaking point, and in order to save all that is good about their partnership, one of them feels compelled to take decisive action. The story sees them go to a private clinic where fantasy can become reality if the desire is strong enough, and honesty pays dividends both psychologically and sexually.

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I’ve had feedback from four of the writers who received my ‘rough’ fourth draft. Today, I decided to take a break from what I’m hoping is my penultimate editing session. I tend not to set up a bespoke Facebook page and play a social media fanfare with a new title, but I do like to give an introduction like this one.

In the last couple of days I’ve produced a cover which I’m content with, and for the next two weeks I will work to trim, polish, and tease the writing into shape.Give and Take - 12b - white author

My aim is to have Give and Take published by end August / early September 2015.

Who knows? If this one is moderately successful I’ll try writing another, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, eh?

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In the next two weeks I may be happy with what I would call the finished product, but before I hit the publish button I would really appreciate final feedback.

No erotica experience necessary, although some sexual experience would be preferred. Only 18+ need apply.

Contact: orderlyman@yahoo.co.uk – subject: Give and Take

If you would be interested in reading the manuscript with a view to giving feedback before I publish, please get in touch. Confidentiality is promised, because I know that not everybody likes to be publicly associated with such literature.

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As always, thank you for reading … and now you can go back to your own fantasies …

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Creating Anthologies

What is an anthology?

Rather than write a brief history of the word and its meaning, it is to all intents and purposes a ‘collection of artistic works’ which have a common theme, style, or other general pattern. Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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Anyone who knows me and this blog, will be aware that in early April 2015, I wrote a post specifically about anthologies, theme and genre. I’ll provide a link to that article at the end of this post. I will also create a dedicated section on my main blog menu for anthology-related articles.

 

On this occasion I’d like to introduce my latest idea, which has been underway since earlier this year.

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What is this new plan?

I’m basing my idea on the theory that the best stories are written by creating a first draft, leaving it aside, bringing it out again at a later date to edit, leaving it aside again, and so on. Using that system, it might take me around two months to produce that one short story.

Now, when that one has been filed away for the first time, I can look at another story. I write the first draft and file it away. Perhaps it has taken me a few days in both cases, to get those first stories written before filing my efforts.

Let’s say that it’s now about ten days since I wrote my first short story, and both the first and second tales are ‘resting’. I could now start my third idea for a short story.

Using this method, by the time I find myself filing my fifth or sixth story, I could feasibly pull out my first one again, and take a look at it. When I’ve read it, and edited it again – I would then file it as ‘second draft’. I then take each first draft in sequence and take it to the next level. During the process I might find the inspiration to add to the collection.

Once the collection is underway it’s important to annotate each title with ‘first draft’, ‘second draft’, and so on to retain control over the work in progress. There is no need to worry about the resting period for stories, because I’ve found that the longer they are left alone, the fresher they look on the next read-through.

In theory, each story will have a minimum of three weeks between drafts, but in most cases longer, which is a good thing.

Slow and steady is the way to work.

Not What You Thought*

Will it take a long time to produce the finished collection?

Yes, of course it will, but anybody who aspires to be worthy of the title ‘writer’ or ‘author’ must have the patience to continually chip away and polish work until it is honed to the best it can be.

 

If it takes months – it takes months.

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How will I keep my ideas fresh during the process?

This is where the second part of my plan comes into play.

For some time, I’ve been working on my next two anthologies – simultaneously. I have one collection featuring military themed short stories, and another collection featuring science-fiction themed short stories.

No, I may not be a recognised sci-fi writer, but I’ve written a couple in the past, and I feel I can produce sufficient variety in the genre.

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Is there any other way I can maintain a fresh outlook on the construction of my two anthologies?

Yes, I’m also working on two novels simultaneously. For some people it may break the rules, or test their resolve to work on more than one project, but I find it works for me.Image (23)

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How do I write two stories at once?

Simply by using the same method I outlined earlier in this article. I took several weeks to get my next thriller up to first draft, and then when that manuscript was put aside, I started work on my first attempt at an erotic novel.

When the erotic novel manuscript was filed away, I pulled out the thriller again, and gave it another rewrite. Both novels are now at fourth draft and resting whilst I read and review for a while.
Yes, I will no doubt write a short story during that time too.

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Are there any tips here?

Yes. If you’re in the early stages of whatever type of writing, be it short stories or novel – you must learn to take time away from the manuscript.

I know from personal experience, that for a novice in particular the work in progress (WIP), is an all-consuming aspect of life. It soaks up time that realistically should be spent away from it. We must learn to allow our WIP to rest, or ‘breathe’ occasionally. It does help.

My two favoured methods are, to read, or to start writing something else. It helps to let your other work rest properly without interference. It also stops your primary WIP becoming a ‘task’. It should be a labour of love, not simply a labour.

Until my most recent work I’ve only ever used one person as a beta reader, but I would suggest at least three other pairs of eyes to have a look at work before hitting that publish key. As I’ve said before, I don’t have any relatives or ‘friends’ to read my work, so it pleases me that any feedback I receive will be genuine.

The people reading your work to give feedback prior to publishing, don’t have to be writers, but I believe in my limited experience of such things, that it helps if they are. They have a keen eye for issues. A non-writer is more likely to simply enjoy the story.

If you have short stories of a reasonable standard, whether or not, you do, or do not have an anthology of your own, it’s a good idea to increase your platform with a guest appearance in somebody else’s collection, or in a compilation by various authors.

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When will I be publishing my next work?Image (25)

I’m hoping to have my debut erotic novel, Give and Take, published in August / September 2015.
A target date for my thriller, Acts of Vengeance, is now around October / November 2015.

My two anthologies are building steadily so there will be no rush to complete them and publish them. They will appear when the time is right.

Do I have any short stories apart from those appearing in my own anthologies?

Yes, I have short stories appearing in my blog menu under the heading Short Stories. I also have short stories making an appearance in mixed author anthologies like:

Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration by English Heritage (various authors),

Christophe’s Farewell and other stories by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Out of the Shadows by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

The Last Waltz (an audio anthology) by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Not What You Thought and other surprises by Paul A. Ruddock (includes guest authors)

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology by Ian D. Moore and friends (various authors)

Book cover - You're Not Alone*

Thank you as always for taking the time to read my thoughts, theories and opinions.
Comments and feedback are always welcome.

If you’ve enjoyed this topic, you may find my earlier post on anthologies interesting:
Anthologies: theme or genre based?

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A Review of Reviews

A Review of Reviews?

An Amazon Author Page

My Amazon UK Author Page

For creative writers the review is a necessary evil. We want feedback so that we can see if weeks and months of effort stand up to the challenge of entertaining our readers.

We must be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, which for some writers is easier said than done. Personally, although I feel annoyed when I see a negative point within a review, I don’t feel annoyed with the reviewer, as long as they have justified their comments.

I am most annoyed at myself if I can see that a negative comment is justified.Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

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What is my average review across all of my titles?

I have so far published: four novels, two short story anthologies and five anthologies of poetry, and my average review: 4.7 stars. Over the full spectrum of my titles, I’m happy with that result, but I aim to improve on it.

Yes, it’s great to read a five-star review that praises one of my books. Irrespective of the rating, when I see comments that are less than complimentary I still tend to question my work, even if the reviewer has not qualified their reasoning.

Up until now, when I’ve read a comment that suggested that any part of one of my stories could be improved, I’ve made a mental note for the future. This is something I intend to amend in the coming months.

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What is my new strategy?
Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

I am planning to start with the reviews of my most popular book, Beyond The Law. I will read each of the reviews in detail, including the five-star rated, and then I will make a list of both the good and bad points.

A well-written piece of feedback will give both positives and negatives, but where there are negatives, the review author will suggest why they’ve raised those particular issues.

My intention is to locate, analyse and amend any offending dialogue, narrative or plot issues.

Yes, it will be time-consuming, but if it means the reading experience will be improved for my future customers, then it will be worth any time I invest.

If I find that there is a point made that nobody else has highlighted, and I believe it’s simply a personal dislike of that particular reviewer, then I’ll leave the issue unchanged.

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Why have I not done this already?

I have made several minor adjustments in the past, if I thought an issue warranted it, but this time I will revise whole sections of a story, not simply content to change a word here and there.Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

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Do I have a sequence for how to prioritise my titles?

My plan is to start with my most popular book, and then deal with the next most popular and so on. At time of writing, I have four novels to work through.

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How soon do I intend to get underway with my plan?

A Taste of HoneyI am working on two novels simultaneously at the present time, and for the first time I’m using more than one beta reader prior to publication.

My aim is to have both of my current stories published by October 2015. My review of reviews plan will begin a week after the second of my latest stories is published.

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Do I have a target date for my first in-depth revision?

Yes, my target date for the revised edition of Beyond The Law is December 2015.Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the reasons for performing such an overhaul?

First of all an improvement to any book must be a good thing for readers.

Secondly, if my undertaking to improve my previous titles then produces predominately good reviews, then it will strengthen the case for multiple beta readers instead of paying an editor. Although my books are selling, I don’t earn enough to pay the rates of an editor.

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912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_As always, I will follow up this article with any tangible results when the time comes.
Thank you for reading, and if you have anything you’d like to add, or comment on about the topic, please do.

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F … is for feedback

F[1]  is for feedback.

When I use the word feedback, I don’t mean a spontaneous comment. Look at the construction of the word; it is a response.

A review is a good example of feedback, and I have my own set of rules when writing a review. Yes, I know there will now be some of you that will not be surprised by that admission.

I believe that in life, if you don’t have something constructive to say, then don’t say anything. When still in the retail management role I held by the maxim: ‘Praise in public, reprimand in private’. A combination of those two trains of thought takes us some way to understanding my attitude to writing, or not writing reviews

1.  Even if I don’t like  book or story, I make a point of not demeaning the author, or their efforts.

2.  If a piece of writing is particularly bad, whether it be a story or book, I do not write a public review.

3.  If I find; typos, incorrect syntax, or a glaring error, I make an effort to give the author a private ‘heads-up’ by email.

4.  When I write a public review, it normally takes the form of a ‘praise sandwich’. My intro will be a positive statement, followed by the body of the comment which may have some constructive criticism (if appropriate), followed by a summary which will be another positive statement, even if it’s only a couple of words of encouragement.

All of us that call ourselves writers enjoy what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Nothing damages confidence and self-esteem more than a completely negative review. If we write a mainly critical review, we should try to find something positive to say.

As writers, we shouldn’t be competing with each other; we should be supportive. I believe that those of us who have learned lessons should be prepared to help others. I came to writing seriously in my mid-50’s and I continue to take heed of other writers of all ages.

Let’s go forward by using feedback as a positive tool, to enhance our community and improve the relationships in our chosen profession, (or hobby in some cases). Together we can take the joy and success to new heights. This is a call to arms my literary friends.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see some of you tomorrow for G, let me think …

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Reasons to be cheerful

Yesterday I received my copy of Writers’ Forum through the mailbox, and opened it with the same enthusiasm it produces each month. I thought the ‘Prize Letter’ in the Readers’ Letter page was particularly good, but then I would, because it was mine.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

Apart from having my letter, ‘Chapter and Verse’, published, I had other reasons to be pleased about the event. First, it means I’ve won a year’s subscription to the magazine, but in my letter there is the subtle mention of my thriller, ‘Beyond The Law’, and my website. We need all the publicity we can get – right!

Today, I received an email from Robert Grieve Black, author of ‘Jammy Dodgers’ and several other books, all available on Amazon. Like me, Robert is a Glasgow man, which comes through in his writing. He wrote, in response to my review of Jammy Dodgers, which just goes to prove, you can get feedback on feedback. Check out Robert’s writing.

What am I working on? I’m still giving every spare moment to ‘Amsterdam Calling’. Instead of some simple notes, I’ve written a full cast of characters, a family tree, places of interest, and of course a comprehensive synopsis.

My next coffee is calling …

Easier on the eye?

Is Bradley to your taste?

Is Bradley to your taste?

If you’re a woman (or even a man) then perhaps you like the look of Bradley Cooperwhere did I put my mirror …

or for others, it’s relaxing to gaze at Liz Hurley … oh those lovely big eyes

Does Liz ease your eye strain?

Does Liz ease your eye strain?

Whatever your preference – it’s nice to look at something and not feel eye-strain. With that in mind and to make it easier for folk to read my short stories and novel chapters I’ve conducted yet another revamp.

Yes, brimming with the milk of human kindness, I spent my morning easing all my creative writing out from column-width to page-width. ‘What difference does it make?’ I hear you ask.

Why not have a look?

It’s particularly important for me right now because I’m working on the final draft of ‘Hawk – A Vigilante’, my thriller set in Glasgow. The novel is set for publication on Amazon in September / October so the rewrite is taking up most of my waking hours.

The first three freshly reworked chapters are now available to read on my blog. Whether you want to see my style, or if the idea of a modern vigilante in a British city appeals to you, please feel free to read and leave a comment. If I find feedback I’ll add the next two chapters. I will – honest!

I appreciate all feedback so whether or not you like the early chapters it will help me to produce a better story. The main job is done – the story is written, so my job now is to ensure the sex, violence, death and mayhem sounds as realistic as possible. You could help me shape the plot.

That’s all for now while I let you all think about it.