Introducing – A Life of Choice

 

Part celebration of an anniversary, and part promotion of my longest running project.

It was 7th November 1969, on my 17th birthday, when I signed ‘on the dotted line’ and joined the British Army. On that momentous day 48 years ago I left the family home in Glasgow, Scotland. I took a train for my first journey to England. I wasn’t sure if I’d be gone for a week, a month, or a bit longer. As it turned out, it was a bit longer …

 

Not in my wildest dreams could I have envisaged the next stage of my life. Within the story are: violence, sex, alcoholism, humour, drugs, bullying, armed conflict and a lot more besides. Having since built a collection of books on modern warfare penned by the men and women who lived through it I have altered my tale of life in uniform in two ways.

First, I felt a greater freedom to expand on certain topics by making the work fact-based fiction.  I also wanted to focus on the humorous outlook of the average serving soldier and his progression – or lack of it. My view of soldiering is told through the eyes of a fictional character.

Secondly, I do not call this an autobiography; it is a five-part novel.

I have written a tale I’ve researched in considerable depth. The interesting ingredients are still there and in the same measure but with a more light-hearted view.

I sincerely hope it leaves a sense of intrigue and not frustration in the mind of the reader to ponder whether some events actually took place or are fictitious. The story is told from the point of view of a variety of ranks, and not all by a Private soldier, but if you choose to read this tale, you’ll see how I’ve achieved varying points of view.

 

If you should decide to take this journey I would ask that you read the books in sequence. Should you read my efforts please leave a review. My intention is to entertain and I’d like to know if I’ve achieved my aim.

 

The initial covers have been designed and produced by me. If you are not ex-military and you’re wondering what the three background colours indicate – they are the ‘Corps colours’ of the Royal Corps of Signals. There is a brief explanation within the story. I’ve used graphics and sub-titles appropriate to the stages of the journey.

Clickng on any cover takes you to the book’s individual page and the links to preview/buy. Clicking on the ‘series’ picture below will take you to the Anthologies page of my author website.

 

As 2017 draws to a close I am in touch with Aimee at Author Design Studio to arrange professionally-designed covers for the series. Next year I’ll be investigating the idea of producing the series in papaerback. There are many people who enjoy reading, but are not fans of eReading devices.

Many thanks for taking an interest in my work,

Tom

P.S. For those who like detail, the bio picture in this post was taken yesterday – 6th November 2017.

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A Time for Courage: and other military stories

A Time for Courage - 2Now available!

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I’m delighted to report the publication of my fourth anthology of short stories. The primary theme is of course military, but as suggested in the title, ‘courage’ is the underlying feature of this collection.

In some cases how the character deals with adversity is fairly obvious, but in other tales the conflict and solution is more subtle.

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Here I have created 12 stories using a wide spectrum of scenarios. Military experiences can be funny, heart-breaking and, everything in between.

This anthology is a blend of my personal experience and knowledge, together with specially created pieces to highlight the peaks and troughs of service life.

These tales can be enjoyed equally by those who have served and, those who have never donned a uniform.

Humour, fact, fiction, and fantasy are used to portray service in theatres as varied as Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Ancient Briton, the Persian Gulf, Africa, and elsewhere.

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Amazon – Universal (Preview / Buy)

Booklinker (if unable to download from Amazon)

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As any sensible and serious indie author will do, I requested beta readers to cast a critical eye over these stories. Notwithstanding the fact one of the stories was a competition winner, I needed the confidence of more than one set of eyes checking my work. To this end, every story has been seen by at least two beta readers, and in some cases I stretched this to four beta readers.

I would now like to say a public thank you to Martin Ashworth, an ex-colleague from my latter days in the military.

My other readers are all members of the fine Indie Author Support and Discussion group:

Sharon Brownlie, Lucinda E Clarke, Barbara Doran-Rogel, Sylva Fae, Pam Kesterson, Robert Lalonde, Eric Lahti, Penny Luker, Julia Lund, Ian D Moore, and Andy Updegrove

Many thanks guys, one and all. I may not have used every suggestion, but I considered every one, and used a lot of them. Without your help I doubt if I’d have the same confidence in the end product.

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Making things Beta

A glance at my Work in Progress will give some idea of my intended output for the next few months. I enjoy variety in my writing as I do in my reading, so apart from working on novels this year – I aim to produce two anthologies.

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A Time for Courage - 1My next anthology of short stories is due for publication at end of March 2016.

I’ve already adjusted the font, and the angle of the plane on the cover for about the fifth time, but I believe the latest version does the job.

A Time for Courage is a collection of 12 stories. There are two which appear in other collections, but they deserve to be included here.

As always I strive to produce a varied selection, even when adhering to a theme, and I’ve worked to develop these stories in each successive draft.

I’m now looking for volunteers to sample the collection. Ideally, I’d like readers to try at least two stories each, but if you’d like to experience variety I can supply a surprise third story based on your two choices.

If I’m fortunate enough to have more than one reader for any of the stories, it will only be a good thing for the final product.

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What do readers need to know?

Photographic Memory* and Duty Bound* are the two tales which are appear elsewhere, so they don’t require beta reading, but I’ll be happy to send them on if somebody particularly wanted to see them.

I tend to set myself a maximum word target of 3,500 for short stories, but in this list I have one tale which is 4,000 words. There are two which are under 1,000 words.

If you would like to sample any of these and provide me with feedback, please get in touch via email, Facebook, or use a comment here. You don’t have to use the title of the story, (or stories) – the number, (or numbers) will be sufficient.

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1. A Time for Courage
2. Users Guide: Soldier
3. Thanks Dad
4. *Photographic Memory
5. Special Forces ?
6. The Odd Couple
7. Walking Wounded
8. Brothers in Arms
9. *Duty Bound
10. Roamin’ Soldier
11. Blood Brothers
12. The After Life

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I’m presently editing a novel for a fellow writer, so I will allocate time in mid-month to revisit this collection for final amendments.

Thank you as always for reading and leaving a comment.

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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

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. 😀

Marketing in Shorts …

Don’t panic … the shorts in question are of course short stories.

How do you market in shorts?

A good question and I’m glad you asked. If you don’t already write short stories you have a couple of straightforward options:

1. You could opt not to try your hand at writing them.

If you choose this option, then I believe you are missing out on what can be an enjoyable writing discipline, and also a wonderful training ground for tightening your regular creative fiction.

2. You could try writing short stories, put them out there for folk to review, and when you think you’ve got the hang of it, compile an anthology of your work.

In which case, depending on the time available for writing, if you care about the quality of your output it might take anything from months to years.

3. You could look at a short story as a way of attracting readers to your name, and then your longer work.

This is my favourite choice, and not only because I get involved, but because I get to help fellow indie writers to get their name and their writing in the public eye.

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Where do we go from here?

A Time for Courage - 1Another good question.

I have recently mentioned in this blog and on my author website about my intention to produce two themed anthologies. The first will be sci-fi stories, and the second will be military stories.

At the moment, my intention is to publish the sci-fi collection in January 2016, and the military collection in March 2016.

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How do I fit another story into my present writing workload?

Oh, how I love the easy questions. Prepare yourself for a simple writing exercise.

Stop reading at the end of this sentence and write down the first idea that comes to mind for a sci-fi themed story.

Okay, I know most of you wouldn’t have taken the opportunity, but that’s how easy it is to get started, or on the other hand to miss an opportunity. You’re sorry you didn’t do it now, aren’t you? Yes, I thought so. I’m going to give you another chance, but with a twist – so be careful. Let your mind run free before you read on.

Are you ready?

When you get to the end of this sentence, write down the first idea that comes to mind for a military / armed forces themed story.

I know it took a couple of minutes, but for those of you who took the opportunity the second time, I’m pleased for you. Leave your new ‘idea’ aside, but we’ll be coming back to it.

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I’ve found ‘opportunity’ a key factor in creative writing. As writers we may:

1. Write about anything.

2. Write short pieces, or long pieces.

3. Write when we can, or only when we really feel the pull.

(Personally, this is every second that I don’t have a coffee in hand, but I’ve now mastered holding my cup in my left hand).

4. We can choose to write whatever we enjoy and tell nobody.

5. We can also choose to establish ourselves by taking every route available to get our name, and our work out there.

The list is endless.

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Hey, what about fitting a short story into my workload?

A few minutes ago some of you wrote down an idea. Yes, I realise only some of you did.

Let’s say you enjoy producing a quality piece of work, so you occasionally leave it aside. It might be after a paragraph, a chapter, or at some other point, but you will leave it aside to let your mind refresh and revitalise.

During those ‘breaks’ of minutes, days, or even weeks is when you could take the opportunity to work on something different to your primary work in progress (WIP).

1. A short story is a good way to do this.  The Welcome

2. A short story is not too taxing on time.

3. It can be left aside without worry.

4. It will improve each time you come back.

5. It’s still creative writing.

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The more astute among you will now see that we’ve come full circle and we’re heading back to my two anthologies. If you would like to make use of an opportunity please read on, and make notes where you deem it necessary.

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Guidelines for anyone interested in inclusion in one of my next collections:

1. Guest authors should be members** of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook.

2. Stories must be a maximum of 3,500 words.

3. Stories should be completed to final edit and submitted to me by the following dates:

31st December 2015 – for inclusion in the sci-fi themed collection.

29th February 2016 – for inclusion in the military themed collection.
(If there is interest but the timing is too tight, I’ll be happy to extend both deadlines).

4. Copyright will remain with individual authors for their stories.

5. Any author who contributes will have the opportunity to include a short bio (50 words), and two hyperlinks of their choice, to be added after their story.

(Please remember, there is no requirement to have been an astronaut, an alien, or have served in the armed forces).

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However this article has left you feeling, I sincerely hope it’s made you consider writing short stories, and reconsider how often we as writers let opportunities slip away …

Thank you for reading.

Tom

**I reserve the right to add a new indie author who is not yet a member of the IASD.

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Resources – Zodiac Types book

Zodiac

Yes, it says zodiac ‘types’, not zodiac ‘signs’.

Many astrology books are aimed at giving a little information on each of the signs, but I came across a pocket-sized book that is worth owning. My tiny volume is in the Collins gem series and is titled ‘Zodiac Types’. The strapline is ‘from your looks to your friends, all is revealed’.

Okay, so you don’t believe in astrology, but this isn’t about how accurate the information is – it’s about how comprehensive it is.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, all fictional characters should have a certain appeal, which invariably comes about by them being well ‘drawn’ as ’rounded’ characters. No, it doesn’t mean they are overweight, it means they are more than cardboard cut-outs.

A rounded character comes to life for reader or writer. For the reader it provides credibility in the character and the story. For the writer it provides credibility for their craft and gives their completed work a greater degree of acceptance. In short, if a writer cannot produce rounded characters, those characters, the plot and the writer will all lose credibility.

What does ‘Zodiac Types’ provide?

First of all it provides the date groups for the star signs, which is a simple, but nice little touch in certain stories. There are also passages on favourites things: colours, numbers, places, occupations, etc. Moving on, we have character traits, physical attributes, likes and dislikes.

We don’t expect to see every detail about a character in one large paragraph, but it’s good to read snippets as the story continues. In this way a few small details help to give the character more substance and become more real.

Personally, I write a bio for all main characters when I’m writing. Once beyond the physical appearance and age, it can get a bit tedious, but a book full of ideas for the other aspects of the human being is an absolute delight to use.

Whether you’re a reader or writer, or both, think about your favourite character and ask yourself what you liked or disliked about them. The chances are, it won’t be their appearance or age. I’ll leave you with that thought.