Beyond The Law – The Trilogy

The trilogy is completed with the publication of Beyond The Law: Consequences.

My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.

Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.

In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.BTL Retribution

It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.

As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesUntil I read feedback on Beyond The Law: Consequences I will suffer a long wait.

*

Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.

*

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.

Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.

*

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.

Tom

Beyond a title …

 

The Red Pen is mightier ...

The Red Pen is mightier …

I wrote in a blog post early in 2015 of my intention to revisit all my novels. As any writer will know, it is not a decision taken lightly. Once underway, the task becomes an obsession. Lifestyle is affected, and so too are social media habits. Other writing projects are sidelined, but the focus must remain on the primary issue – improvement of the target title.

*

 

Since my intentions were stated last year, I’ve revisited four of my titles. Two have had a few hundred superfluous words removed, and two titles have been amended with subtle touches – and have now been categorised as ‘Romance’ rather than ‘Thriller’.

I accepted at the outset my greatest challenge would be to work on my top-selling title – Beyond The Law: Formation. (Originally titled, Beyond The Law)

*

Beyond The Law: Formation

I believe a brief history will demonstrate how important this project was for me.

May 2008 – I introduced Phil McKenzie (Hawk) as an action character in a poem. I followed this rhyme with another and built a series of 30 poems about Hawk.

Nov 2011 – I used my ‘Hawk’ poetry series to write a novel in a month in the NaNoWriMo. The story consisted of 56,000 words.

Oct 2013 – Following 18 months of writing and rewriting, I published Beyond The Law. The tale had expanded to a staggering 154,000 words.

(At time of writing this post, it continues to be my top-selling title.)

Aug 2016 – The revised version is now available, and is now supported by Beyond The Law: Retribution, the second tale in the trilogy.

*

Why affect the length if the book sells?

I’ve since written more books, and as all writers find, I am improving my appreciation of what is good, and what is better. I regularly check out the ‘do and don’t’ articles, and I recognised a few issues from my past writing.

Over-description (flowery language), passive dialogue, procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and a few other odd words which are best left in the brain, not on the page.

Where did I find my list of procrastinators, idlers, etc.?

At this point I’d like to mention, and say a public thank you to Kelly Hartigan. I haven’t used Kelly’s professional editing services yet, but I am a keen follower of her wisdom. To find out about those groups of words I’ve mentioned, and to gain an insight into Kelly’s valuable tips and suggestions please visit:

Kelly Hartigan – website

*

How have I amended Beyond The Law: Formation?

1. I removed the unnecessary words as detailed above (procrastinators, idlers, and so on).

2. I tightened the dialogue, and many dialogue tags, without altering what was said.

3. I located and amended passive voice, to active voice.

4. I located and amended a few cases of ‘head-hopping’ (changed Point of View). Okay, in this case there weren’t many, because I tend to hold a POV within a scene. If I want to change the POV, I change scene, usually by using a centrally-positioned asterisk, instead of a line-break.

5. I referred to all reviews, made notes of points raised, and made minor adjustments where necessary.

*

How long did it take to perform this edit?

Six weeks. Apart from a couple of breaks of three or four days, it was constant, hard work.

*

What is the end result?Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

I trimmed 28,500 words from the manuscript, which began with 154,500 words.

The story is now 125,000 words, supported by 1,500 words used for back pages information on other titles.

I believe I’ve improved a story I already liked.

*

Will I go on to perform the same ritual with my other titles?

Yes, all of them, and I’ll take each one on a slimming exercise. It’s not such a daunting task, because I’ve dealt with my longest book, so the others will feel less arduous.

*

Why should I bother?

1 – I’d like my readership to get the best deal possible, and ‘the best deal’ isn’t only about the price, it’s also about the story, and the quality of writing.

2 – My intention is to produce my titles in paperback, but to ensure I’m able to use the same profile and book dimensions I must keep my word count down. In my eBooks for example, I give a blurb for each of my titles at the back of every book. These will be reduced to a list of titles by genre.

*

A side effect of my efforts has been the relegation of my other projects. I will now work to complete three of the four other titles, but my next collection of short stories will be postponed until at least December 2016/January 2017.

*

If you haven’t read Beyond The Law: Formation, the revised edition is available.

BookLinker

Amazon Preview/Buy

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts, theories and ramblings. All feedback is welcome.

***

FREE on Amazon Kindle

The new look cover and title - being used on Amazon / Kindle

The new look cover and title – being used on Amazon / Kindle

Yes it’s true, I’ve moved my novel to Amazon Kindle and I’ve put it on a FREE promotion for five days.

I spent two weeks in March giving the manuscript a mini-revamp, re-titled it to become: ’10 Days in Panama’ and to finish the job off, I refreshed the front cover.

I’m pleased to report that in it’s first couple of hours on promotion it was downloaded over 130 times.

If you haven’t got your copy, why not get along to Amazon Kindle before Saturday and get it for FREE. From Saturday it will revert to the minimum price of £1.99 / $2.99 approximately (give or take a penny or two).

This is a short post to highlight the move to Amazon Kindle but I’ll be back in a day or two if there is any progress to report. I’m now once again working on ‘Hawk’, a vigilante thriller set in Glasgow. It’s already on the third draft so I’m pleased to be getting back onto it.

Use the title or FREE as your link to download ’10 Days in Panama’

An Ongoing Task

My graphic is of the Forth Road Bridge which amongst other things is famous because when the team of painters complete the job from one side to the other, they start all over again.  I’m quite proud of this photo because I took it whilst on holiday and I found that there aren’t that many vantage points to capture this view.  This is looking north across the River Forth, northwest of EdinburghForth Road Bridge, Scotland

Chapters 1 and 2 of my HAWK story have been completed and in the hands of the competition judges for a couple of weeks now and within 48 hours of sending my efforts away I was working on the revised Chapter 3.  The first draft of Chapter 3 is now completed and I’m on my way with some notes for Chapter 4.  I enjoyed the experience of producing the HAWK series in poetry because it was written very much one step at a time without much planning.  I then went on to tackle the NaNoWriMo Challenge in November 2011 using the same character and a fresh story idea.  For the NaNo it was fun tackling the task and seeing the renewed story take shape but this new version is a different sort of thing again.

Since the rewrite of the early chapters I’ve now got my novelist’s head on and even before the present chapter is completed I’m thinking of and making notes for future chapters.  I’ve finally discovered something that other people have talked about in the past, whereby the story, or the characters seem to help the writer.  I find myself trying to argue why a character would or wouldn’t say or do a certain thing.  What I have accepted is that as I complete one chapter I’ll be straight on with writing the next.  My books on gangs, criminal investigation and police organisation will now come into their own.

Today I downloaded ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ by Stieg Larsson onto my Kindle 3G, but when I’ll be making time to read it I don’t know.  One of my aims for today was to check out other blogs, and there may not be many I read but I do owe it to the people concerned.

I haven’t written much poetry recently and today I had the urge so I put a verse together titled, ‘All I Want To Do ….’, which surprise, surprise is about writing.  No change there then.

The Hawk Has Flown

Today’s graphic is the view north from the beach at a small place called Dirleton on the east coast of Scotland.  When I was caravanning there with my wife a couple of years ago I would take a walk to the beach early in the morning when there was nobody else around.  Peace and tranquility are the two things I found there on each visit.  It’s a feeling I’m able to appreciate again, now that I’ve completed my latest competition entry.  Of course I’ve experienced those things since that holiday, but they’ve been missing whilst I’ve worked on ‘HAWK, A HUMAN HUNTER’, the novel. Dirleton beach - view north

It’s taken me a few days to come down from whatever place I’ve been for the last two months.  When I took part in the NaNoWriMo I felt under pressure and applied myself daily, safe in the knowledge that what I produced wasn’t intended for the eyes of an agent, publisher or anybody else for that matter.  It was an exercise in writing a serious number of words on a daily basis to achieve two goals; write in excess of 50,000 words in a month, but make a working novel of the writing.

Back then I used my character ‘Hawk‘, developed for a series of poetry.  It was fun to do and it taught me a little about character building – and I don’t just mean my own.  I put in twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and troughs or however you would want to classify them.  In my own private world I thought the idea worked so I kept all my writing to refer to at a later date.

It was with some trepidation I set out to rewrite my character, in a different city, with a familiar feel to the plot in order to take part in the Good Housekeeping / Orion Books novel writing competition, including a guide to getting published by Luigi Bonomi.  The requirements sounded simple enough when I read them; entry form, full synopsis of up to two pages, a 100 word bio and up to 5000 words of the unpublished novel.

My first task as I saw it was to rewrite my first two chapters and I re-sited the action in my home town of Glasgow, rather than where I originally based the story, in Edinburgh.  I started out by keeping my main characters and set about the re-write happy in the knowledge I would enjoy the challenge.  I continued with my usual routine of write it, leave it aside, print it, edit it.  By the time I reached the third draft I knew I was going to be applying a bit more effort than I first imagined.  It started to occur to me that these wonderful people who churn out novels have to work at it.

I’d never attempted a synopsis, but how hard can it be to write the skeleton of your novel, especially with up to two pages?  Answer – quite hard actually ….

At last count before I was happy with it I worked on the synopsis for two weeks!  A couple of interesting things happened during that process, apart from the repetitive headaches, oh yes, and my inabiltiy to concentrate on anything else.  I realised with a little research that although there is a lot of advice out there on the subject of writing a synopsis, it isn’t necessarily the same advice.  Sure, it might help catch the eye of a publisher or agent, but I ended up with three completely different versions of the same document before I was satisfied which way to go.  The final choice as it happens still took four drafts before I was then happy with it.

As I read it and promised myself, ‘one more time’ I made some notes and went back and amended the opening of Chapter 1.  It didn’t take long before I realised I was working backwards!  It had taken me two months to end up editing Chapter 1.  In the end to preserve my sanity I told myself that what I had was good enough (whether or not I believed it), so I then trusted my hard work to two people I felt I could trust, my good friends Carmen from distant tropical shores and Chloe from these green and pleasant isles.

Between these two lovely ladies they all but destroyed what little confidence I had left in myself.  No they didn’t actually … I’m kidding.  What they did do was agree (without consultation) on a couple of areas where I could improve and they also said some nice things about my writing.  I’ve always been one for taking the rough with the smooth so I accepted the nice things like the gentleman I am … and made a list of the things to be revisited.  It appeared that me and my characters would not be parting company for at least another week.

It’s gone now, the manuscript that is, posted off with high hopes and a background of unseen blood, sweat and tears … mainly sweat, but I don’t intend to hold my breath whilst I wait for the results of the competition.  To Carmen and Chloe, I owe both you ladies a debt of gratitude.  If I win I’ll send you both a small monetary gift … do they still mint the ‘farthing’ coin I wonder ….

So now I’m working on the remaining chapters but at a more leisurely pace, mainly to save my sanity.

Happy New Year

Scottish Highlands

Welcome to my blog in this new year of 2012.  My accompanying graphic is a photo I took when holidaying in my favourite place in the world, the Scottish Highlands.  Throughout last year I supported my posts with my own artwork so I thought in a slight departure I’d use a series of photos from holiday destinations as this year gets underway.

I haven’t been on here for a couple of weeks but I have been busy.  I’ve got two short stories underway and I have one entered into an international competition.  I have already started work on the edit of my NaNoWriMo novel, ‘Hawk, A Human Hunter’.
I am presently assisting a fellow writer and good friend of mine to set up her first attempt at a blog.  I know how difficult I found it since I’ve only been blogging myself for a year.    Progress on that project will come as and when she wishes to broadcast her efforts.  For a while at least I believe it’s right that she keeps her writing under wraps.   I think the finished product will be worth a visit so I’ll be plugging it on here.
Reading material at the moment for me is a continuation into the ‘classics’.  I am presently reading ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy.  I will in time write a review so that can wait.  I now have a reasonable collection of classics lined up so I hope to learn what all the fuss has been about regarding certain books.

NaNoWriMo – HAWK

‘HAWK’ is my entry for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge 2011.

Swift, strong and efficient

 I’ve chosen my drawing of the Kawasaki ZZR1100 to illustrate this post because I believe it represents qualities shared by my main character, the bird of prey and the motor cycle.

I propose to write an entire novel from scratch in one month.  This is something I feel will be challenging and liberating at the same time.  One of the aims is to avoid spending vast amounts of time editing.  Any editing will therefore be ongoing throughout the writing, rather than going back to pages or chapters to alter them substantially.  For the period of this month I am prepared to forego poetry or work on other projects.  My intention is to upload each chapter to my blog as it’s completed.  I realise I may find it necessary to do something else occasionally to give me breathing space away from the main task – HAWK, the novel.

 

HAWK – a synopsis:

Disillusioned by the government and military leaders, Phil McKenzie, a soldier serving in the Special Air Service leaves the army only to find increased frustration with the daily criminality taking place on the British streets and decides to redress the situation.

NaNoWriMo

It takes effort but if a task is worth doing ...

My featured graphic is an acrylic depicting a bistro.  I completed the painting for a young couple I know.  It was to celebrate their first anniversary and moving into their first home.   I feel it fits my theme for this post of new beginnings.

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us.  It takes place throughout November.  It’s been running for a couple of years now and very successful it is too.  So what’s so different this year?  I’ve decided to take the plunge … and I’ve already registered.  I enjoy a challenge and in particular one with a deadline, mainly because it gives more focus to the task in hand.  After all, how hard can it be to write a complete novel in a month?  Okay, I’m joking!

From what I’ve read about the whole ‘Nano‘ thing it’s accepted at the outset that the vast majority of entrants will have masses of issues with typos, dialogue, grammar etc., So what’s the point?  The point as far as I can see is that accepting the challenge enables an individual to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words in a month – that’s 1,667 words per day if you’re not quick on mental arithmetic.  As mentioned previously, it will be ‘warts and all’, but the point is, it could be the foundation of a proper, stand alone book or first of a series.

I was reminded of the ‘Nano‘ as I read my friend Chloe’s blog recently.  It’s one of those things, like perhaps a marathon (yeah, done that), a person feels it’s their turn to tackle it.  Only minutes after deciding I would take it on I flicked through some of the poetry series’ I’ve written over the last couple of years.  The winner, if I can call him that is my character ‘The Hawk’.

My name on the ‘Nano‘ site will be, ‘Tom Benson – Writer and Storyteller’.    My novel for the purpose of the ‘Nano‘ will be called, ‘HAWK‘.

Phil McKenzie is an ex- SAS soldier who leaves the military because he’s become disillusioned by his military and political leaders’ decisions.  Within days of becoming a ‘civvy’ once again he witnesses so much criminality on the British streets that he feels an overwhelming desire to redress the situation on behalf of the victims.  ‘Hawk’ is the name adopted by Phil, a modern, self-styled and capable vigilante.

What makes me think I’m capable of this mammoth task?  Self belief for one thing and a strong desire to succeed, which as long as I don’t run out of coffee I’m sure I will.  ‘How about a plot line?’ I hear nobody in particular asking.  Within my poetry I have a mini-series I wrote called, ‘The Hawk’.  I intended it to be two or perhaps three episodes to experiment with the idea of series poetry.  ‘The Hawk’ gained popularity on ‘Starlite Cafe’ where my poems are posted under the pen-name Tomfoollery.  Hawk’s antics continued for 35 poems.  My intention is to draw from the episodes written in verse.

I’m already bubbling with enthusiasm and making notes for twists and turns in the adventures of ‘HAWK’.  It means that I will only have one short story ongoing, but that will have to be shelved until after this endeavor.  I want to totally immerse myself in this new venture.  If I find the time after today and throughout November I will make an effort to update my progress here.