Can You Resist ‘Temptation’?

 

‘I can resist everything except temptation,’ is one of my favourite quotes by the talented Oscar Wilde. The Irish essayist, poet and novelist produced many memorable quotes.

Temptation is one of those wide-ranging areas in life. Whether we go back to Adam and Eve, or consider a multi-million dollar robbery, we are reminded of temptation.

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In this, my latest collection of short stories I’ve employed temptation as a core theme. In a couple of the stories it may be obscure. The tale may be dealing with an imminent allure, or the after effects. The final decision does not always follow the enticement, which is where I considered true entertainment would be found.

 

I’ve diversified as I usually do with the plots, by using a mixture of genre for the stories. I have featured vengeance, thriller, horror, romance, paranormal, sci-fi, contemporary, and sizzling romance (not erotica).

I’m a keen reader of short stories, and I derive tremendous pleasure from building a mini-world for characters who must come alive for their brief shot at fame.

Amazon – Preview/Buy                   BookLinker – Universal

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On the subject of choices, I am like many writers, in that I am always on the lookout for another platform. On Facebook for example, I originally had a personal page, and after a long settling in period, I started an author’s page. Last year, I set up separate pages for Short Stories, Erotica, Poetry, and kept my original author page; Tom Benson – Writer.

tb-writer-fb

Click for Facebook page

Following a post by Val Tobin, who constantly produces great content for authors in her entries on Facebook, I took the plunge and set up an inter-active ‘shop on my author page.

Facebook suggests it takes about fifteen minutes to set up. Well, I don’t know what they were setting up, but by the time I got my head around the project and uploaded my titles and links, I’d used about three hours. The good news – the idea is working.

I left it for a day to recover from the titles/links overload and have now gone back to install ‘shops’ in my other three writing-related Facebook pages.

I’ll write a post on this idea soon if I see an upsurge in sales, although it would be nice to think any upsurge was purely because the books were so popular. I know, I know …. 😀

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

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Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.   Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the main considerations?

– Will it be theme-based, or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work, or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.

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Theme versus genre?

Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.

– Retribution
– Goodness
– Family
– Natural History
– Day and Night
– Environment
– Imprisoned
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.

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Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.

– Thriller
– Horror
– Supernatural/Paranormal
– Erotica
– Young Adult
– Romance
– Science-Fiction
– Adventure
– Children’s
– Fantasy

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It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to: Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

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The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous short list, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.

We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:

Genre: Open,
Theme: Imprisoned,
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095

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Are you ready for this?

My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …

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I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme, but are they the same genre?

No they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.

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1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.

2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.

3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.

4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.

5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.

6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.

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What have we established?

An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.

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Here I feature, Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories, and complemented them with work by guest authors.

Not What You ThoughtPlease find below, links to this newly published anthology. Paul Ruddock is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. He also created and maintains the Indie Author Review Exchange blog.

The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.

Amazon UK   £1.99    Amazon US   $2.99

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What’s my experience with anthologies so far?

I have short stories traditionally published in four separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.

I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.

I have self-published two anthologies of short stories.

I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.

Smoke & Mirrors; and other stories, is a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.

Coming Around; and other erotic stories, is a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.

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I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.

My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories.

If you’re new to the idea of anthologies, or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any text book information.

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

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You cannot be series …

Poetry covers compilation
Yes, the fourth word in my title is the proper spelling. It is not meant to be the statment made famous by tennis star John McEnroe, although I admit, I was tempted.
If you’re too young to remember, on more than one occasion the talented and quick-tempered Mr. McEnroe would challenge an umpire’s decision with a wild stare, whilst screaming,                   “You cannot be serious!”
As this post develops I’m sure that most of you guys will see that I could have gotten away with the tennis player’s outburst as my alternative title.

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I’ve noticed that there is a tendency these days for writers, and especially novices, to produce sequels, or even a series of books. Authors have various reasons for doing such a thing, and those reasons cover a wide spectrum. I’ll list a few reasons to help get my point across.
1. The writer wants to explore how far they can push a character whether it be in development or experiences and adventures.
2. The lazy or greedy writer, who simply wants to exploit the market, by producing several titles of very short works; calling them a ‘series’.

Why do I say greedy?
I’ve recently discovered an author who is publishing nothing more than long chapters and giving them the title of ‘book’. In this way he creates a ‘series’. Yeah, whatever.

How do I know that it’s greed?
If somebody has the audacity to consider such an underhand tactic, the least they could do is ensure that the ‘books’ are properly edited and formatted. In the case I’m highlighting, they are not.

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Some books lend themselves to the idea of a sequel, or series, simply by the nature of the original story, whilst others do not.
There is a train of thought that such a thing is easy to do, but in my opinion, in any subsequent books the necessary information must be drip-fed to the reader as the story progresses. It should not consist of massive chunks of force-fed back-story; which I’ve seen in some attempts at a sequel.

My opinion on what works and what doesn’t for sequels and series.

What works?
A series, whether it is 2 books, or 22 books, should have a constant aspect, whether it is in theme or character.
For example:
1. Each book has a different character, but the theme is the same.
2. A fresh case or plot with the same central character since the first book.
For example:
Private Eye, police, medical, adventure, espionage, western, military, thriller, seafaring, Sci-Fi, fantasy, paranormal … and on the list might go.

What might not appeal to readers after a couple of stories?
The certain knowledge that the protagonist is virtually indestructible – and it’s not Superman.

What doesn’t work?
In the right hands just about any genre is good for a series, but the decision to tackle this particular idea is not something that should be taken lightly.
Romance for instance could lend itself to a series if the basis of the stories was to take a fresh story from the point of view of various characters from one central theme.
For examples:
1. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of an office or other business.
2. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of a community. Now this could be a nice little earner if you were prepared to devote half your life to it. Instead of the community being a small village, how about telling of the romances onboard the cruise ship Laid Back Lady, which has 500 crew and 4,000 passengers?

Now there would be a money-spinner.

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To reiterate my point, we must all be aware of giving our customers value for money, so we must be conscious of providing a good product and not creating a ‘series’ out of nothing. In particular we should keep an eye open for those in our business who are prepared to undercut the readership, which includes us.

Integrity is a key factor when considering if a writer is writing a sequel, or series for the right reasons.
As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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Amazon Bitch – Part 2 of 2

£ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $

We can lie and fall into the self-denial category, or we can come right out and admit that we may enjoy our writing, but we would like to make some … no, a lot of money from it. I’d love to see one of my stories being adapted as the basis of a movie, but maybe that’s a topic for another post.

My suggestions on how to be successful with sales are based on my own experience, not on a list provided on the Internet. There are several on there, I know.Smoke & Mirrors 020614

1. Present your books to the best standard you can. Consider the actual writing, punctuation, grammar, editing and formatting. Do not under any circumstances publish something that has only been written in one draft. My average for a novel is four drafts. My short stories usually take about six or seven drafts.

2. Pay to have eBook covers designed. Sales of my novels increased dramatically after I’d had the covers designed by a professional. Expensive perhaps, but following the revamped covers, the sales of one of my novels paid for the covers of all three novels in less than three months.

3. More than one title assists sales, but that doesn’t mean you should rush out your next book. Take your time, get it right and watch your books sell because readers trust your name and brand. Do not allow your name to be discredited by a poor book – and poor reviews.

4. Increase your social platform. There was a time when I scoffed at social media, but now I use it daily. Why? I post a link to my author website on three different Facebook groups daily. I occasionally post on Twitter, but not as often.

5. If an author website is beyond your reach financially, get a blog organised in the meantime. My first blog lasted over a year before I realised how many mistakes I was making with the content.

6. Only when you have two or more books to promote – consider an author website. If a website is out of reach – use a blog template to build an author website, but treat it as an author website – not a blog. If necessary, set up two blogs. One used as a blog, and the other as an author website. If you have any issues about the difference, please feel free to check my own.

7. Organise an Amazon Author Central page. This can be done on both the UK site and the US site. I have a page on both.

8. Review the work of your peers, and don’t stick to your own genre. I’ve reviewed Young Adult, Supernatural, Romance, Thriller, Suspense, Erotica, The Classics, Humour, Science Fiction and Children’s books. You will gain by:
a) possibly learning something, and, b) the recipient author and others might even check out your work. We all need each other, and we need to do our best in writing and support.

9. Price your books appropriately. Use common sense and remember you might become the next Stephen King, or Jackie Collins, but until you are at that level – be honest and realistic, not over-confident and greedy.

10. If you intend to produce a collection of short stories, publish a couple on one or two reading and writing sites and get feedback / reviews / critiques from total strangers. That really is a wake-up call. Make the number of stories in an anthology worthwhile.

Coming Around - 020714

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However you read into my blog posts or my occasional Facebook rant, I am not a know-it-all, and I accept that I sometimes make a mistake, but I put myself and my writing through the wringer. I give many hours over to learning about and improving my craft.

We owe it to each other and to the industry not to put something out there half-cocked. If your mum, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, or Auntie Agnes likes your writing then I’m happy for you – but please don’t take their word for it that you’ve got it right and you’re good.

Why do I rant about getting the writing as good as we can?
1. Would you ride a bike, or drive a car with loose wheel nuts?
2. Would you buy a keyboard with two letters missing?

We are asking people to give us money for these things that we write. It’s a transaction whereby we suggest that what we’ve produced is worth money, and the buying public pay their hard-earned money in good faith.

I keep my book prices low. I don’t do it because I’m rich, because I’m not. I also don’t do it because I haven’t made any effort, because I work damn hard. I keep my prices low because I’m not a household name and I’m realistic. I want to build my personal brand and I will only be able to do that with a good catalogue of books that have received good reviews and are making sales.

I can sense that I’m going off on a tangent, but I hope I’ve managed to get at least a couple of points out there.

Lest I forget, I don’t expect to see my sales increasing after leaving Kobo and Smashwords, but within 24 hours of enrolling on the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library my books were being borrowed again. If it gets to a healthy level I’ll write a post.

All comments are welcome as always and thank you for reading.

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S … is for Synopsis

S[1] is for synopsis. In terms of writing, it is also for sex, suspense, style, senses, strength, support, spelling and of course story. In this post I’ll concentrate on synopsis, because I think it would be easy to write a post on each of the others too.

What is a synopsis?

It’s a brief summary, usually of a novel.

Are there any guidelines for writing a synopsis?

Yes, there are several, and I’ll list them here as best I can, but as I suggested in my post on resources, double-check out the topic elsewhere. What I aim to do here is give the novice, or unsuspecting novel writer an insight into a word that strikes terror into the heart of many writers.

1. It should be written in a similar style to your book: humorous, serious, or whatever.

2. It should be written in the third person point of view. i.e.: he, she, they. Not; I.

3. It should be written in the present tense.

i.e. ‘Karen is embarking on a voyage of sexual discovery.’

   Not, ‘Karen was embarking on a voyage of sexual discovery’,

   Not, ‘Karen will embark on a voyage of sexual discovery’.

4. It should introduce your main characters and their conflicts, but should not be a cast list.

5. It should give a clear idea of the plot: serial killer, kidnapper, sexual predator, etc.

6. It should flow logically so is easily understood by the recipient, (publisher, agent, editor).

7. It must show the conclusion to the story. No secrets, and no cliff-hangers. You cannot be ‘precious’ about the ending – it must be clear.

Is there a format for a synopsis?

Yes, wouldn’t you just know it. Unless advised to do it differently, a basic layout is formed in the top left corner of the first page. Single or double-spacing depends on the requirements of your recipient, and the length of the synopsis.

Synopsis of: Beyond The Law

Genre: Thriller

Word Count: 150,000

By: Tom Benson

Once again, I’ve tried to give a taste of what is a deep and detailed topic. The list I’ve given is not all-encompassing, but I hope for some of you guys at least, it has dispelled one of the myths surrounding the synopsis – like it is easy to write. lol

Thank you for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘T’.

 

 

Write on…

I started at the Creative Writing class in the local Arts Centre again on Tuesday evening.  I enjoyed the term I did at the end of last year and it’s good to be in the company of like-minded people, even if it’s only for a couple of hours once a week.  I strongly recommend a class or a writing group.   

We already know that we will be spending the final three sessions in March actually reading a story we’ve put together over the course of the classes.  I’ve started a piece about the plight of a stranded UN soldier in an African country during a riot.  The knowledge that I’ll be reading out the finished product to other writers will make me work harder on the story.

I am so far managing to keep up with my plan to keep at least three short stories on the go at any one time.  Immediately I post a short story to a competition I detach myself from it and get another idea going as soon as possible.  I am finding it more of a challenge to write about a variety of topics.  Keeping to one genre is an insufficient exercise for a writer’s mind in my opinion.