Story Ideas with ‘Legs’

Preview/Buy

I finished writing Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 recently. I reminded myself that it was the easiest phase. Having said that, I’ve now also completed the first full edit, which as any author will tell you can be a mind-boggling task.

You would think that having written a trilogy and two mini-series I would sail through completion of another trilogy–not so, and I don’t believe it should be easy.

Occasionally, when an author sets out to write a story, apart from the desire to create a new world where they have complete control, it’s sometimes not clear if the tale has ‘legs’. By this, I mean that in the early, exciting stages the idea might be to write a trilogy or a series. These multiple titles create an opportunity for an in-depth and ongoing tale with a cast of impressive and well-rounded characters. Authors must always remember that some story ideas don’t have the ‘legs’ for a trilogy.

What happens if the story doesn’t have ‘legs’?

The honest answer is, it becomes a book. Yes, it’s that simple. Any decent author will know as the plot unfolds whether that daydream of a saga with those interesting ideas was simply that–a daydream, and not a great prospect for a longer story.

What happens if the story does have ‘legs’?

Ah, now we’re getting back on track. In this case, the author will get underway with the tale and enjoy developing the plot, the scenario and, of course, the characters. This is what happened for me with Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. My head buzzed with ideas and characters were falling over themselves to be involved. Some of the people I considered never made it beyond the first auditions. That’s showbusiness.

Preview/Buy

This particular story was intended to be a single book, an attempt at post-apocalyptic fiction.         I had three main things I was aiming to do with my glimpse of a world after Armageddon.

Firstly, I wanted to portray the effect of survival on a disparate bunch of people who were thrown together and would be trapped by circumstances. Secondly, I wanted to do it without the use of zombies or any other ‘undead’, which seems to be a pre-requisite for some authors of the genre. Thirdly, I wanted to involve and explore the use of the ‘Hollow Mountain‘ and the hydro-electric power station created and operating from within.

When did I know my idea had ‘legs’?

Surprisingly, this happened about halfway through the first book. I invented two people in personal situations which are poles apart. The interaction which evolved in both cases when these two individuals entered the story was the turning point. I expanded my brainstorming sheet, which is something I create for all of my stories. I knew that if treated properly, the concept had the capacity to be bigger than I’d first intended.

Did I know it would become a trilogy?

No, and again, the reason is simple. I had to wait for the response to my initial tale. For example, the cover didn’t have ‘Book 1’ added until recently. Most of the feedback was good but there’s always going to be a zombie fan. 🙂 At this point, things changed slightly. I felt that I’d accomplished something with the first book and I’d absorbed so much background information which blended with personal experience and this was indeed a story with ‘legs’–a trilogy.

Light to Dark: Light at The End – Book 2 was a tale specifically written to explore how far people might go when they’d come to terms with their ‘second chance’ and gained confidence. I believe it’s a plausible follow-up to the opening story and not a filler. There are extensions to the plot, further adventures, and character development, but for me, it had to feel that there were a natural progression, entertainment, and a satisfying ending.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and as I develop and polish the third part with many more drafts and in time send it out to beta readers, I’m feeling good about that initial daydream and my three aims for the story.

Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 will be available in early November 2020.

Thank you for any comments and suggestions.

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A Cover Story

Astute authors will recognise that irrespective of how good their story might be, it’s the cover which is the first point of contact with the reader (or ‘the customer’ if we’re honest).

I accepted early on in my writing career that if I wanted my books to be treated seriously then I’d have to part with cash, and not for vanity publishing—some people still do. In essence, I’d have to fork out before my hard work had produced any reward in royalties.

There are many more aspects which affect the success or failure of a book but for now, I’d like to stay on topic—covers.

It didn’t take much research for me to discover that poetry and short story anthologies attracted less interest than any other aspect of creative writing. Yes, as luck would have it, my first titles came into those categories, however, I’m a positive kind of guy and saw an opportunity. Here were two areas in which I could practice the dark art of cover design. Later, I would find another. 😀

My first novel took a year to write due to me also holding down a full-time management job. I produced my idea of a cover for Beyond The Law. Even with my artistic leanings, it was not an impressive sight, so let’s not go there.

For my next two novels, I bit the bullet, which is an option not many of my characters are offered. I paid a professional cover designer to cater for Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling. Both books sold steadily and a significant lesson was learned. I asked the designer to create a cover for Beyond The Law (later to be suffixed ‘Formation’. Like the other two covers, it was expensive, but the blow was softened when I saw the effect of a decent story married up to a good cover.

In less than six months, I received sufficient royalties from Beyond the Law to cover the cost of all of my first three covers. Needless to say, I went on to use the same designer for A Taste of Honey. When Beyond the Law – the trilogy was created with the addition of ‘Retribution’ and ‘Consequences I saw regular sales. 

I continued producing the covers for my short story anthologies as the books were published. Yes, they would sell, I thought, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant a hefty outlay on covers.

One interesting twist came when I wrote my magnum opus, A Life of Choice. This was a five-part, fact-based fiction series; a depiction of my military career, but I had doubts. I hoped it was written in an entertaining and engaging style, but it was simply a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t see it as a prize winner or a major money-spinner.

I designed the covers using the ‘Regimental Colours’ of the Royal Signals (my Corps), and I used a small representative graphic for each of the five stages. My theory was that the ‘colours’ would attract the eye of some of the thousands of Royal Signals soldiers past and present. Following a slow pick-up and a few good reviews, this series rapidly established itself as my top-selling story.

The only issue I had was the regular requests for it to be available in paperback. I experimented and it took several weeks but I managed to amend the end/beginning of the five parts to convert them into a paperback trilogy—the same story, in the same words but broken at different logical points in time.

I recognised a potential saboteur—overconfidence. I contacted my professional designer and gave her a simple brief, sending her photos of the three pieces of equipment to be featured, samples of the background colours and all the printed matter for front and back exterior. For example, apart from the blurb, each book in the trilogy has excerpts from three different reviews. It took a few weeks to get there and I was delighted with the designer’s solution.

An area that some indie authors fail to register is that paperbacks are formatted differently regarding the front and back matter. I took great care in presentation, as I’ve done with all of my paperback versions so that they mirror traditional books.

One aspect of this series I didn’t expect was how much it would be enjoyed by those who had never served. The primary target of any creative writer should be to provide entertainment and it gladdens my heart to know I’ve achieved my aim with this special story.

As if by magic, the paperbacks continue to sell. I’m delighted to report that they are a popular prize at the many military fund-raising events to which I donate signed copies of the trilogy. 

I recently felt that I’d gained sufficient knowledge and experience to try my hand again at the creative, challenging skill of cover design. It took a few days but I’ve refreshed the covers for the Beyond The Law trilogy. My versions are on trial for a couple of months.

Apart from poetry and short story anthologies, I said that later I was to find another area for which I could create the covers. Erotica is that area and not surprisingly there aren’t that many reviews although they are good. There are, however, plenty of sales. 😀

If you’re an author at whatever stage of your journey, please remember that a well-crafted book with a good cover is more likely to see a healthy return on the investment of your time and money.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.

My Series’ are boxed off

 

How to attract more readers and give them a reward—that was my quest.

I have individual novels, a trilogy, and a five-part novel. My poetry titles come in the form of a bumper book of serial poetry, my five-part, multi-genre series and, of course, a collection of rhyming erotica.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

Erotica, not usually mentioned on this blog—apart from poetry I have several novels, two anthologies of short stories, and a series of novellas.

I was looking at an opportunity hidden in plain sight—box sets.

I could offer a series at a cut-price. Yes, it would mean I lose a small amount in royalties from the individual book sales, but providing entertainment to a greater readership is more important to me than the money—which of course would be the spin-off; I know. 😀

Four questions came to mind.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How many people are keen to have a series available in one download?

How many people will take the opportunity of saving about 15-20% on the overall price?

How many of my series should I prepare as box sets?

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

How hard would it be to create them, and how long would it take?

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The good news is, the graphics in this post are not simply for show. The first part of the job is done—four box sets completed, although while working on the project it felt like forty. Amendments to front and back matter was tedious, but worthwhile.

In each case, there is at least a free book when comparing prices to individual purchases.

These box sets are available on Kindle Unlimited.

Click image for Amazon page and options including KU.

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I have no intention of going along the audio route so it will be interesting to see if this idea works.

Things got off to a good start with the erotica—a box set sold within three hours of publication.

I’ll write a post giving any useful information if the idea takes off, and in which area/genre.

A Life of Choice is available as five individual eBooks, a box set of five, and as a paperback trilogy.

If you’re new to my brand, all of my eBook titles are available on Kindle Unlimited.

In my meantime, I’ll be happy to accept question, comments and suggestions.

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Five into Three

 

A Life of Choice is fact-based fiction, presently available as a five-part novel for Kindle. The story is the most popular title in my catalogue.

If my first attempts at this tale were included, A Life of Choice has been a work in progress for about twenty-two years. On the other hand if we were to treat my military service as research for the story—it goes back to forty-eight years.

Whatever else I published it was always important to me that I completed this project. It was heart-warming to see the first reviews from serving personnel and ex-Service personnel, of course, but to see glowing reviews from readers who’d never donned a military uniform—gratifying.

As with all of my writing, it was never my intention to publish in paperback, but like many things, I’ve decided to change course and take that step.

Why paperback?

– Since the first part was published as an eBook (two years ago), I’ve had requests to produce the story in paperback. There are many people out there who either have difficulty using a digital reader, or simply prefer a physical book.

– It will give me the opportunity to use the paperback version as a gift, or on occasion a ‘prize’ in draws for various military charities.

Do I expect to make a profit from sales of a paperback edition?

No.

– I don’t write to make money, which I like to think is reflected in the price range of my eBooks. My titles are competitively priced or they wouldn’t be treated seriously.

– By the very nature of indie paperback publication the individual books are expensive when compared to availability of the household names in any supermarket or bookstore.

– I’ve created the covers for my eBooks with a few exceptions—those being designed by a professional cover designer.

– This series will have covers created by Aimee Coveney of Author Design Studio.

What’s going on with the ‘Five into Three’?

I produced the story in logical parts to publish as eBooks, but the individual books would not justify the price set by Amazon for paperback versions—in my opinion.

Due to the the process and use of the data provided by the author, the Amazon KDP system requires exact information when relating an eBook to a paperback. I’m taking a risk, but trying to think outside the box.

A temporary cover idea.

– For the paperback version, the series will be broken into three parts. They will still be ‘logical’ parts, but of greater substance than their digital counterparts.

– To ensure the job is done properly I’ve spent many hours selecting where to move chapters from one book to another in order to adjust overall length. This has entailed amending the Preface and the Epilogue in each part.

– As I did with Amsterdam Calling, and Ten Days in Panama, I am underway with a complete revision of the story. The tale will remain the same, the humour or more serious aspects will stay in place, but the writing will be tighter. I will also be adjusting the use of uppercase letters for certain instances.

– Instead of associating the paperbacks directly with the eBooks within the Amazon system, I will sub-title the paperbacks as The Trilogy Edition. I’m in the process of writing appropriate jacket blurbs to highlight that it is the same story but in a different format. This will also forestall any conflict with Amazon and their ‘Matchbook’ process.

Will the updated writing have a detrimental effect on the eBook version?

No.

I will be using the rewritten chapters from within the paperback manuscripts to replace the chapters in the appropriate eBooks. In this way, the writing is updated but the front and back matter of each book remains constant.

How will I prevent issues with the publication of the ‘original’ and ‘updated’ editions of the eBooks?

I will prepare all five eBooks and update them in one session so that they’ll become ‘live’ on the Amazon system within hours of each other.

How will I ensure that ‘The Trilogy Edition’ paperback version is seen to be the same story?

– I will not publish any of the paperback versions until I have all three completed.

– As with the eBook updated versions, I will publish the three paperbacks in a single session, aiming for them to appear within hours. Paperbacks are not purchased as rapidly or frequently as eBooks so there isn’t as much pressure on timing.

A Life of Choice: The Trilogy Edition – Part One is completed.

There you have it, people.

In my next post I’ll report on how things are going with my conversion of five into three, and I’ll explain why my eBook publishing plans for this year have been altered.

As always, I thank all of you who take the time to visit and read my blog.

On Top of The Covers

 

No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.

As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.

Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.

My attempt

Where do you first find the title?

Oh yes, on the cover.

I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.

 

How have I dealt with covers so far?

I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.

Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.

Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?

Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.

I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in PanamaAmsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Do I make exceptions?

Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.

My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brand feel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.

 

What’s my next step?

Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.

 

As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.

 

The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.

 

I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take

 

Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.

Happy New Writing Year – 2018

 

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.

Click on graphic to go to my website

 

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.

Codename: Nightshade – a spinoff from my successful Beyond The Law trilogy.

One Man: Two Missions, and other stories – a collection of short stories and flash fiction.

What could be better than two more novels and another anthology?

I also intend to produce:

Curious and Camping – an erotic novel.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories – a collection of 12 short stories.

The updates and details of these two titles appear on Tom Benson – Erotica.

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Apart from my titles:

–  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.

May the new year be as good to you as you wish.

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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.

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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Writing is series work ….

2016-so-far
Graphic links to Anthologies page of author website.

Before this year got underway I set myself certain targets regarding my writing. Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking. Yes, it’s the mainstay of our marketing for self-published authors, but I’m working on the theory – if I have more titles with quality time spent on them, it’s better than pushing the present catalogue.

I’m delighted to report I’ve been true to my goals … for most of the time. In the past I’ve gone from conducting a minimum of marketing to going overboard, and this year I’ve aimed to strike a balance.

I tend not to advertise too much prior to publication of a title, and so far, I haven’t embraced the ‘pre-order’ idea. This year so far I’ve produced five titles, but none were rushed. Due to my method of working, I have three projects underway at any given time. I may work on one book for a week or a month, and when it is left to simmer, I pull up one of the others. Of the five titles in the banner above three of them had been rewritten several times before 2016.

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Working on different projects in such a way may not appeal to everybody, but I’ve found it maintains my interest, and my productivity – if I avoid the distraction of social media.

iasd-globe-2I have an allegiance to, and certain responsibilities regarding the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it’s never a hardship to work towards the success of the group. The IASD has been and will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has come about, in the sense I’ve continued with my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. This month the free book appears on the 15th/16th.

Apart from the regular free books, I update the News page of my author website monthly, and the detail is posted in all the usual places.

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What have I got in store for the remainder of this year?

I’m presently sharing my writing time between four projects. Before the end of the year I’m hoping to publish: the third title in the series A Life of Choice, the final part of the Beyond The Law trilogy, and if the characters will misbehave for me – the third in the Highland Games erotica novella series.

The fourth project (not shown in graphic), is my next anthology Temptation: and other short stories, which is under constant revision.

part-threes

Of the aforementioned titles I’ve discovered a peculiarity. The Highland Games series carries the lowest priority for me, but when I feel the need to get away from another project, or I simply want to escape into a world of fantasy, the words flow easily with my erotica series.

When I’m out and about in life and my notebook makes an appearance, it is invariably to jot down a new idea, character, or situation for one of the series.

However the rest of my writing year goes, my readership may rest assured I’ll be putting every effort into producing my best entertainment.

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

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Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904
Click graphic for book blurb.

If you’ve been kind enough to check out this post I think it’s fair to drop a subtle hint about Tom’s two-day freebie for October ….

This was my first romance, but has recently been revisited.