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 Stage further …

 

Yes, I’m a happy man. I’m filled with a sense of achievement as I compose this post. This is not something about which I’d normally boast, but hey, it’s special.

As I reach this point in my life I have already put a sequence in place for my monthly freebies on Amazon.

It’s only three weeks until I give up my retail job, and one week later I’m officially retired. The act of retirement is a conclusion of sorts, and my other achievements are also conclusions in their own way.

Some time ago I suggested I’d try to write a sequel, which was done and then followed by a series. This of course refers to Beyond The Law, the trilogy.

I have over the years insterspersed my other other writing with a long-term project. My factual autobiography and military memoirs was fraught with issues when I first wrote it – apart from the standard of the writing.

Now, with reasonable writing experience and success, I’ve completed my five book series, A Life of Choice. The fifth book is not due publication until November, because I would like to use completion of the series to celebrate the 48th year since I signed up to join the British Army.

I tried my hand at erotica in short story format, moved on to novel, and following success with both, I recently completed a series of five novellas. Highland Games is the result.

My September give-away was the first in my Beyond The Law trilogy, and with three months to the end of the year, I’m giving away books with connections.

Over the next three months, on two occasions the weekend freebie will be the first in a series, and the remaining weekend freebie will be a pair of books which complement each other.

Military Matters is a book of poetry which contains 80 verses which reflect aspects of life in military uniform. This book will be accompanied by A Time for Courage: and other military stories. In an attempt to avoid any hitches they will be offered separately, but over the same few days.

At the end of this year I will be terminating my monthly, freebie weekend. If you haven’t yet sampled my work, this is a good time to try a variety for free.

As we come into the final three months of the year it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have three WIP. Two of the new stories are thrillers, Czech Mate, and  Codename: Nightshade. The third is erotica, Curious and Camping. All three books will be published in 2018.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words and taking an interest.

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When Two Worlds Collide

 

The final part of the tale has yet to be published, but the end of the series is written. I’m pleased to report that I’m now in the editing stages. I will edit, leave to rest, and edit again. The sequence will continue over the next two months, but my aim is to publish by early November.

Why publish in early November?

As I’ve drawn on the experiences I gained over a 23-year military career, I’ve enjoyed reliving many conversations and situations. I’ve recalled men who have passed on, to that big army in the sky, or wherever it may be. Some of those guys were taken too early, while I’m pleased to say, others lived beyond what was a regular life.

I’m rapidly approaching my 65th birthday (early November), which means I’ll have been out of the military for 25 years. If I use November as my target for publication it will be the 48th-anniversary of when I joined the army and will be a celebration of a story I’ve already researched and have been writing for several years.

Many of my memories of those days are enjoyable and as clear as yesterday.

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Why was this an important project for me?

There are a few reasons for writing a story such as A Life of Choice. As I’ve said in interviews and in previous posts, there are hundreds of books out there which relate directly to a modern conflict and real soldiers. Life and death coexist, and graphic photography removes any doubts.

Yes, in any military story there are plenty of facts and the scenes are laced with an abundance of emotions. Having written this tale several times, I aimed to inject as much humour as possible, while maintaining the thread of the protagonist’s life and career.

Is there anything else to be done apart from editing?

I’ve decided to pay for a professional cover design for the series. I created the present covers myself using the corps colours of the Royal Signals, but when the fifth book is established, I’d like to give the series the best possible chance of appealing to a wide audience, which means eye-catching covers.

Will the series only appeal to serving or ex-Service personnel?

I’m pleased to say that from the reviews I’ve seen so far, the answer is no, which is what I aimed for from the outset. This has never been a series purely to feed the memory of old soldiers (male or female), although I’m sure many would enjoy the tale. To some readers, there might be too much detail in certain areas, but my aim throughout is to create a credible backdrop.

Imagine a life without computers or mobile phones, and when airports didn’t cater for several languages on their notices. In Part One, the miniskirt was still a statement fashion and cars didn’t come with a radio as standard. A pint of beer and a 20-pack of cigarettes would have cost … well, I’m not going there, because some of you wouldn’t believe me.

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To put it all in perspective, it is the tale of a young man who left school at 15, and at 17 was venturing into the unknown. For those who have served, it may bring back memories, and for those who considered serving, but did not, it may answer questions. For those who never contemplated military service, it will provide insight.

All of the links to Amazon or BookLinker are available at my author website on the Anthologies page:

http://www.tombensonauthor.com/anthologies/4591486548

Go on, take a look …

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A Life of Choice: Part Four – available

 

 

The penultimate volume about Jim Faulkner pursuing a career in khaki, and all the trials and tribulations which befall him along the way.

Have you been following Jim’s progress?

In Part One, Innocence and Inebriation, 17-year-old Jim Faulkner leaves home to offer himself to the service of his country.

Part Two, Paths and Progression, our young man finds himself on a rollercoaster ride of education – in life.

When we arrive in Part Three, On and Off the Rails, Jim has volunteered to work in a scenario where variety is a way of life, mainly when at work.

In Part Four, Onwards and Upwards, life has altered so much, but any improvements have been earned using the experiences of what has gone before.

The final episode of Jim’s story is due for publication in late summer/early autumn 2017.

If I were to ask two small favours of my readers, I would ask that you work through the series in order, and please consider leaving reviews, however short.

Thank you, on behalf of Jim.

A Life of Choice: Part Two – available

 

Signalman Rod Hogarth with B70 - circa 1973

Signalman Rod Hogarth with B70 – circa 1972

As the title suggests, this is the second episode of my coming-of-age story. My plan at the time of writing this post is to produce a series of five books, but this will depend on two factors.

1. How well the early books are received.

2. How any feedback affects the detail and content of the successive episodes.

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In Part One, ‘Innocence and Inebriation’ Jim Faulkner left a humdrum existence, and as a reserved 17-year-old went out into the world in an unexpected move. He joined the British Army and found himself facing trials and tribulations he’d never before considered.

 

In Part Two, ‘Paths and Progression’ our young man has congratulated himself on completing basic training, adventure training, and radio training. He’s spent a few months in his first working unit in the UK, and he finds new discoveries and adventures following arrival of the entire unit in Germany.

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For the benefit of anyone interested in such detail at this stage, the operator featured on the front cover of this volume is my good mate, and one-time fellow crew member Rod Hogarth. Here, Rod is depicted operating the obsolete B70 SHF radio set, and on this occasion it’s ground-based, mounted on a tripod.

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The introductory book of the series was published on 6th January 2016, and has reviews.

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick

The second book has been published a week later than scheduled. It is a larger book than the first, because it focuses on a longer time period

My aim is to produce the next episode in October 2016.

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A Life of Choice: Part One

Amazon (Preview/Buy)         BookLinker (Universal)

A Life of Choice: Part Two

Amazon (Preview/Buy)          BookLinker (Universal)

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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

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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New Year … New Projects!

HF - 20

A location which will be recreated in my stories for young children.

Many writers enjoy the feeling of a new year, because it feels like a natural time to get fresh projects underway. I am one such writer.
For me, I believe 2014 was a successful year for my writing, so I’m going to push myself harder this year. I’ve already started.

Two days ago I updated the front end (sample pages) of all of my eBooks to give excerpts of recent reviews, so that they are all live and updated for the benefit of prospective readers.

Today, I updated the information on several sections of my author website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com

Although I have a ‘coming-of-age’ novel already well underway, I am intending to write two sequels to other books, and I’d like to compile an anthology of military short stories.

My greatest self-imposed challenge is to create ‘Countryside Tales’, a series of stories for young children. As I write, I have already created the main human and animal characters, plus I’ve drawn a map of their environment. I have three authors in mind for when I require guidance as to whether or not I’ve got it right.

I’m intending to produce my own covers, but for now at least I am not using illustrations. I toyed with the idea of producing my own illustrations, but they are time-consuming to get right and to resize for an e-Reader. Apart from those points, I believe that I am capable of creating sufficient imagery within my words.

I will be making more of an effort to check out my fellow bloggers, so I’ll have to come up with a routine, because sporadic visits don’t seem to work well.
As always, thank you for checking out my scribbled thoughts.