A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firmbeliever that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.
Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.
I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.
Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.
During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.
The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.
Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of theIndie Author Support and Discussiongroup (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for theIASDhorror anthologyDepths of Darkness.
To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.
I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superbConnections eMagproduced by fellow author,Melanie P. Smith.
I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.
Have you ever considered producing an anthology of short stories?
Perhaps you’ve written short stories and never considered creating a collection, or you’re a novelist who shuns the short story discipline to concentrate on longer work.
My first anthology was a project, a challenge, a dream, and a nightmare all before it became a reality.
I’d written numerous short stories and won competitions, but Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories was my first foray into compiling an anthology. Should I aim for a theme or go multi-genre? Is it best to go with a complete set of original work or include something which has been commended? Go it alone or ask other people to donate a story?
The questions pile up about ten seconds after the decision to tackle such a project.
I’m pleased to report that stories from that first collection are still referred to in reviews, which is heartwarming. It is also a testament to the credibility of the stories and justifies their inclusion. I’ve now compiled seven anthologies including The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories created by inviting other authors to join me.
When I compiled ‘The Welcome’ it was never about earning money, it was always intended as a platform for fellow authors from the IASD and me to get examples of our work out there. No, the collection hasn’t made me a millionaire although the book continues to sell the occasional copy. Thanks to Amazon’s peculiar attitude to customers spending a set amount of money before being allowed to comment, there are now fewer reviews being posted.
I suppose I should come clean and admit that if you’re a multi-genre author like me there is a constant need to work on a new anthology. If writing short stories appeals to you then the next logical step must be producing a range of your work instead of keeping it aside waiting for the opportunity a competition offers.
Would you prefer to keep all the stories in one genre, or might you find it easier to mix the genre?
The two main routes to go are theme-based or genre-based, and then, of course, you can go it alone or invite work from others. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to hone your writing skills.
The key, as with all writing projects is the desire to take on the mission.
If you are more inclined to work on novels, you’ll appreciate that your manuscript needs some downtime, and one of the most useful ways of dealing with this I’ve found is to work on a couple of short stories. Sometimes the distraction produces further inspiration for the novel.
Have you considered inviting fellow authors to join you in creating a collection?
If you have a favourite genre or theme you could create a collection of your short stories or use yours as a base and mix in stories donated by other authors. You are in control.
When you get right down to it, you are practising your writing craft by producing short stories so why not take that next step and build up a few and make them the ‘chapters’ of your first anthology.
I dare you—you’ll be hooked.
My next anthology, due publication in 2020, starts with a factual story, so once again, another twist. The aim for me is to produce a collection of twelve original tales supplemented by three ‘bonus’ stories which are selected from my other anthologies. This creates value for the reader and provides a platform for the other work by the author.
Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, comments are welcomed.
My interview with erotica author, Katya Cumming, has been promised for some time, so with great pleasure, I’d like to introduce you to the new girl on the (writing) block.
Q1. Katya, I respect your decision not to provide a profile picture because of certain types of people. Would you be kind enough to give us a brief description of yourself and your background?
Two descriptions attributed to me have been curvaceous and statuesque, and I like both. I’m a thirty-something brunette from Edinburgh, Scotland, who works in fashion retail. Relationships are for those involved, so that’s where mine will stay. In my quieter moments, I read and write, and sometimes those things are done while I travel which I also enjoy. To keep in shape I swim, jog, cycle, and do aerobics.
Q2. What type of books did you read when you were younger?
While very young I loved adventure stories, but by the time I was a teenager, I’d progressed to romance. It was while babysitting for a neighbour I first discovered books with more interesting topics. The first erotica book I read was sci-fi, but it just made it more fun for me, imagining the things the aliens could do with the human body. It captured my imagination.
Q3. What attracted you to writing erotica rather than any other genre?
I was a fan of romance, but I needed more grit, and moved up to steamy romance. It didn’t take long before curiosity got the better of me and erotica was next. A couple of authors were okay, but most stories were more like plot-starved, sexual fantasy than erotica, so I decided to try my hand … if you’ll pardon the pun.
Q4. How long did you write before publishing?
In terms of time, probably about two years. I’d written some poetry and short stories which were well-received in writing groups, but novels are a different discipline and frightening at first. Over quite a long time I produced the early stages of three novels but I left them aside, adding to them occasionally.
Q5.How long does it take generally from starting a story to seeing it published on Amazon?
I would suggest a minimum of four months. Once I have an idea I make a few notes and leave them aside to consider from which start point it might best evolve. I also tend to leave the manuscript aside regularly to let me work on something else. The Mistress, which is my shortest story so far was my quickest first draft. It took me fourteen days and I stopped at fifty-thousand words. I reduced it to forty-seven thousand words.
Q6. How many titles do you have available at the present time?
Now that my latest, ‘His & Hers’ is released, I have five books out there, all on Amazon KU.
Q7. Many authors depend on experience for their subject matter—how much of your work is a direct result of personal experience?
Small segments in different stories is the best answer. This is where the male of the species is different from the female I suppose. A guy who sleeps around for a while is sowing his wild oats and is a bit of a lad, but if a girl plays the field she’s a tart. In my mid-teens, I had two relationships with girls, but by the time I was eighteen, I’d confirmed I enjoyed a roll in the hay with a girl or a guy. I’ve been involved in a threesome twice.
Q8. Feminisation and strong female characters are prominent in your work—could you explain why you lean in this direction?
Sexuality is a deep subject. When you delve into the area of ‘gender-benders’ as they’re so cruelly labelled, there is a myriad of areas to explore. Crossdressing is a multi-layered topic and well-suited to the erotica genre. The why and wherefore create a story. Whatever men tell you, and you should know, if a woman is attractive and dominant it’s more likely to add spice to a sexual encounter, rather than be seen as threatening. What that dominant woman wants, she will get one way or the other. Only a chauvinist or a dyed-in-the-wool alpha male would think otherwise.
Q9. What is your response to those who say that erotica is simply literary porn?
If they’re describing a book which is no more than page after page of explicit sex scenes then I’d agree with them. However, if those explicit sex scenes are integral to and supporting a cohesive story, then it is not porn, it is strong erotica.
Q10. Do you believe there is a place in the market for erotica, and strong erotica in particular?
Yes, of course, or people like us wouldn’t be spending weeks and months developing a story to convey the activities of our characters. I’m an advocate of allowing people the freedom to read whatever they please, and if for example, a person has difficulty forming relationships, has an unsatisfactory sex-life or simply enjoys a bit of titillation, a graphic erotic novel might be a release for them, in a manner of speaking.
Q11. What’s your opinion of those who profess to be erotica authors but produce regular, small volumes of badly-written, graphic sex stories?
First of all, the only way they can be called authors is due to having composed the material. They are not necessarily creative people. A graphic description of sex is not particularly creative in itself. Secondly, many of these people rely on no more than three or four plots, usually involving a cash-strapped person, an experiment, or pure fantasy. There is little or no research and no substance. In my opinion, lazy writers are despicable because they are money-grabbers who also affect the reading public’s view of indie authors who are working hard.
Q12. Who are your favourite indie authors?
You are obviously one, Tom, and that’s not simply because of this interview. I’m also a big fan of Sarah Stuart who writes steamy romance, and Lesley Hayes who is just an incredible writer. For the joy of a true storyteller, I like Patrick ‘Max’ Power, Rebecca Bryn, Lucinda E. Clarke, and Mike Billington. I’m a massive fan of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group; all talented international authors. It’s handy to have something to frighten the pants off me so for that I depend on Anne Francis Scott.
Q13. Which, if any, other genres might you consider writing in the future?
I have a yearning to write something in the sci-fi arena, but I’m not sure yet whether I’d go with dystopian, apocalyptic or outer space.
Q14. Can you tell us about your cover designs and how they came about?
I feel that if not from a scene in a story, the cover should at least highlight one aspect or provide a hint of what lies beyond the title. You know as much about them as I do since you’ve made the effort to produce them for me.
Q15. Why have you avoided being interviewed until this point?
Again this is an area of which you have a good grasp. For your benefit and to aim for credibility, I didn’t think it was fitting to be revealed until I’d produced at least five titles in my name and achieved significant sales. I felt that for a long time I was locked away, waiting. When you decided to bring my work to the fore, create my character, my name, and give me my own website it meant so much to me.
Thank you, Tom, for this interview and for bringing me and my work to the attention of the wider public. I do understand how difficult it has been for you to maintain this secret aspect of your life as an author while you’ve worked on my development.
Thank you for opening up to me, Katya. Please, finish your coffee before you get dressed. It’s been great working hand in glove with you and I look forward to your next in-depth tail … oops, I mean, of course, your next in-depth tale. I’m happy we finally have your personal story out there.
And to all who are interested in Katya’s naughty tales, here are links to her work.
There is more than a hint of deja vu as I begin this post. I started 2018 with the intention of producing two more thrillers and a new collection of short stories. Work was done on all of those projects but none were completed. The reasons were many and various.
Among the many other projects I did complete last year, in the erotica genre I published: two novels, a novella, and an anthology of short stories, all of which I found easier, though no less time-consuming than my planned books. If I’m not enjoying what I’m producing, it isn’t going to be my best.
Here I am once again with the same intentions as 2018, but in a better frame of mind to get the job done.
I may not produce as many titles this year, but I feel confident I have sufficient work done to ease my early progress into each of my main writing projects. In an effort to improve my focus I’ve refreshed/improved the proposed covers.
Codename: Nightshade is a crime thriller. The book is a standalone, and spin-off from the Beyond The Law trilogy. Rachel Donoghue is the central character and depending on your viewpoint—the heroine. For now, I think that’s enough to know about this one.
Czech Mate is a crime thriller based on the activities and adventures (or misadventures), of a young Scottish artist and gallery proprietor. The reading of his late father’s will is the kicking-off point for the tale, and apart from his native Scotland, he finds himself in Central Europe—mainly Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.
One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is a new anthology, although some of the stories have been in my files for a few years. They are of a wide variety of genre, similar to other anthologies I’ve produced which have proved popular.
Rather than predict an exact publication date for any of this work, I’d suggest it will be out there when it’s good and ready.
What else have I got lined up this writing year?
I have four erotica titles at various stages and a book of poetry of the same genre. They are detailed on the dedicated website—Tom Benson – Erotica.
I will be reading as much as possible, as usual, and I’ll be mentoring, beta-reading and helping my peers whenever I can.
The production of more paperbacks will probably be put on hold—they don’t sell in sufficient numbers to make the investment of time worthwhile, and at least in my case they are aimed more at giving to charitable causes, or as gifts.
There you have it—a summary of my proposed writing year, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
Did I do anything of importance regarding writing during 2018?
In late December I reread On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. If you’re a writer and you have yet to read that book I would suggest you are doing yourself and your proposed readership a disservice. As I reach the end of this post, for the benefit of my peers who may not have read the book, here is an excerpt from one of the final paragraphs:
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”- Stephen King.
As recently as the end of December 2018 I spent an entire day working to update and improve this blog. I removed a needless heading from my main menu and set up a new one—Samples of my work. If you’d care to visit the new feature you will find samples of complete short stories of various genre, individual poems of different genre and examples of my serial poetry.
If you are a fellow scribe, I hope you have a wonderful, productive year ahead. If you’re a reader, may you find yourself absorbed in many a good story, and if you’re a reviewer, I hope you like my work.
Thank you for reading, and as always, comments are not only welcome but encouraged.
I can say with confidence that I will never apply as much effort to any other writing task as I have to ‘A Life of Choice’.
It was 49 years ago this week when I left home to start basic training with the British Army. My military career ended in 1992, after 23 years, and it was a couple of years later when I gathered information towards writing about that career as military memoirs. It would take many years before I’d gained sufficient writing knowledge and skill to produce an entertaining tale.
I tried the fact-based route first, both in the first-person point of view and in third-person. The end product was massive and carried far too much detail—it went into ‘storage’.
When I’d successfully written and published thrillers, romance, short stories and poetry, I turned once again to my magnum opus. I toyed with fact or fiction, and viewpoint. My choice was fact-based fiction, written in the first-person point of view.
By 2016 the first of five parts was published and was well-received. As each part went out, the reviews continued to be positive, so I sidelined my other writing projects. I still tried to read, review and help my peers with their projects. Apart from public reviews on my new series, I started receiving private messages via my author website—mainly from ex-soldiers (male and female), who wanted to pass on their gratitude for the accuracy and humour. Most of these guys were not comfortable writing public reviews.
My only concern was that many serving and ex-service personnel were not e-reader users and I have regularly received requests for a paperback version.
Five paperbacks would have been easy to produce, and would also be simple to ‘match’ on websites or outlets. Marketed as five paperbacks, the series would have been expensive to buy, so I set myself a series of tasks.
1. Perform a complete rewrite to tighten dialogue and deal with minor amendments.
2. Break the story to balance the chapters and create a consistent ‘volume’ for each of the five parts.
3. Select the appropriate places to break the story to make a paperback version as a trilogy edition.
4. Rewrite all blurbs for the five eBooks, and three fresh blurbs for the paperback trilogy.
5. Compose a disclaimer which could be used with internet marketing blurbs and within the books regarding the different editions having the same content overall.
6. Select excerpts from reviews to use on the back covers of the trilogy.
7. Build a catalogue of information to educate my book cover designer regarding the ideal graphics solutions. This was difficult because anything available now in photographic evidence is very different to the equipment I would have known in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and early ’90’s. We persevered, and the trilogy covers feature equipments which were landmarks in my story.
As I’ve done for my novels, I hired the talents of Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio–a designer who works tirelessly until the solution meets customer satisfaction.
8. Organise the sequence of publishing—all five amended eBooks and the trilogy, only when I had the bespoke covers for the trilogy.
9. Create graphics to market the two editions separately and together.
10. Prepare my author website and this blog for when the new trilogy went public.
I commenced this renewed labour of love in June 2018. Once again, apart from helping other writers on individual projects, and managing a major task for the Indie Author Support and Discussion group—most of my efforts went on the conversion process.
How did I relax when it was getting intense?
Several times I pulled out one of my erotica projects—as difficult to write as any other genre, but light relief in terms of content. Occasionally I’d draw, paint, or read, but not as often as I wanted because I felt a sense of guilt for not ‘working’.
In mid-October, I completed the conversion of five eBooks into three paperbacks. It was around 7th November, when I completed the final formatting sequence for the revised eBook versions … and then I had another coffee.
The pricing of the paperback trilogy is more than I’d have wanted, but I reconcile my concerns knowing that each book is around 570 pages. It was vitally important that nothing was removed from the story.
Who might find an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of my paperback trilogy?
Apart from review excerpts by a selection of ex-Royal Signals personnel, and an ex-Army wife, I opted for snippets from fellow authors, namely: Frank Parker, Barbara Fagan Speake, Paul A Ruddock, John MW Smith, and Paul Rees—notably, all fellow members of the IASD.
Thank you for taking an interest, and passing a few minutes with me.
I’d like to start this new year by celebrating ‘firsts’.
This is the first month of 2018, and the start of my first full year of retirement. I’ve had a few weeks practice to get accustomed to the idea. To celebrate, I’ve reduced the price of all of my ‘first‘ in series to a mere 99p (or equivalent), and it’s an ongoing promotion.
What are my main targets for the writing year ahead?
– I have novels underway and intend to publish them this year.
– I aim to resurrect pages of notes and compile another anthology of short stories.
Czech Mate – a thriller set in Scotland and the Czech Republic.
– I’ll be assisting my distant friend and fellow author Carmen Lopez to compile her second anthology. Carmen is the author of Alone: and other short stories.
– More reading and reviewing will be in order.
– I will continue to work with the other members of the IASD to produce the next anthologies we’ve planned.
– This may be the year I finally tackle the idea of a paperback version of my titles. I have the first in mind, but I’ll keep the title under wraps until I’ve made progress — or I need help.
– I’ll continue to go out on my bike rides to do a lot of my thinking and planning. My choice of ride affects my thought process, but more of that in a later post.
– I’ll also be drawing and painting, which are wonderful pursuits to allow ideas to develop.
– This year I will try my latest hobby – baking. What has that got to do with writing, you might ask. It depends on the results, but at present, I’m hoping that like cycling, it will allow my mind to wander. I can’t promise to publish pictures of my early failures, but I will no doubt let you see my successes.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.
– In July, my study received a makeover, and I got an early birthday pressie – a Mac.
– In September, our son, Andrew treated me to a four-day break in Prague, Czech Republic – to celebrate my retirement year. This spawned the idea for a new thriller — Czech Mate. Many photos were taken and pages of notes written in research.
– In the first week of November, I turned 65 and finally retired from regular work. Another celebration trip was made, and on this occasion, I went to Edinburgh, Scotland with my wife. While there I took photos, made more notes and walked miles in research for Czech Mate. The main character is from Edinburgh. 🙂
– As this year comes to a close I will cease to hand out my work for free. For over two years I’ve given away one, or a number of titles for a weekend each month. How much impact the venture has had on my sales is unclear, but somewhere along the way I’ve had reviews from folk generous enough to give their time. My freebies were worthwhile for that if nothing else.
– When December got underway I dropped the price of A Life of Choice: Part One. Now that the series is complete and there are a few sales, I thought it might stimulate interest if the first volume in the series was only 99p(and equivalents).
– During December, my Highland Games erotica novellas are available at 99peach. If you haven’t ventured into reading this genre, you know what they say — don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 😀
– Throughout the year I was proud to be a part of, and play my part in the Admin of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group. For me, this involved assisting in the maintenance of the group website, and the updating of the monthly Featured Author.
– During 2017, I continued as mentor for my distant friend, Carmen, to help produce her first collection, Alone: and other short stories. The stunning cover was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce. I supplied three of my stories to support this debut title.
All will be revealed in my first post of 2018, but suffice to say, I’m going to be busy.
I will take this opportunity to thank all who read my work, and those who make the effort to read my thoughts and check on my progress. I sincerely hope your old writing year has been good to you, and your new year will be better yet.