Reading, Writing and Rhythm

As we arrive into March of another year, like many people I feel I have to look back on how things have gone so far – and where I intend to go from here. To brighten up this post with a graphic it felt right that it should be one that reflected my working environment so I’m featuring an updated vision of my workstation.

Where most of the effort is put in ....

Where most of the effort is put in ….

What have I been reading?  ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen celebrated it’s 200th anniversary, so having had it on my Kindle for some time, I actually got around to reading it.  A full review is available on Good Reads, but for here, suffice to say I enjoyed it and now at least some of the comments made about ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Mr. Darcy’ make sense.

I am presently taking my time as I read ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown.  Anyone who has read my poetry will know that there are several long poems and a four–part series featuring the noble Native Americans.

In one of my rare channel hopping moments, yesterday I came across a 1952 movie entitled, ‘The Battle at Apache Pass’.  I had to watch it because my memories of western movies go back a long way and I had to be reminded how the two sides were portrayed.  It was as close to truth as I suppose they dared go back in the ’50’s and I dare say if there was a remake they would tread even more carefully.

In other news, I am enjoying being a member (and pleased to have been asked to be a Staff Reviewer) on ReadWave.  It’s a great site and if you haven’t had a look, please do.  If you enjoy reading short stories there are lots on there to entertain.  If you write, there is a Staff Picks page which is used as the homepage where work is showcased.

I feel I should be spending more time reading other blogs but I’ve decided to cut down to what I did previously and only read a chosen few.  One person can only read so much online when the hours of the day are already being rapidly filled.

What am I writing these days?  I gave ‘Pawnee Express’ a revamp recently and entered it into a competition and then ‘Deadly Nightshade’ got a good overhaul too.  Another short story that went into a competition was ‘Through A Lens’, which started life as a 1000 word intro’ into a ‘racy read’ for an ITV competition.  I’ve just completed the first draft of ‘An Aspiring Writer’ which will find itself on ReadWave in a week or two when I’ve revisited it and tweaked it a bit more.

My ambitions in the world of eBooks have not ended.  I now have my novel, ‘Ten Days’ still on Smashwords, accompanied by the first five volumes of my poetry, classified by genre in my ‘Rhyme Scene’ series.  I’ve raised some cash for Comic Relief 2013, but not as much as I’d hoped.  In some ways you are damned if you drop the price to increase interest, or raise the price to try to increase sales.

My website http://www.tom-benson.co.uk has had a few more pieces of artwork and photos added and of course my updated short stories.

What’s in the pipeline? Well, apart from revisiting all my short stories to see where they can be improved, I have my short story, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ being published in a new anthology titled, ‘Out of the Shadows’ by the Inkerman Writers, which will be launched in the next few weeks.  I’ll mention it again when I have a hard copy.

Comic Relief 2013 – Buy an eBook to help raise funds!

och aye the noo What can I do that’s different from other fund-raising ideas?  How about donating the proceeds of all sales from my novel and series of poetry books?  Sound good?  Okay, it’s a deal – and for the cynical among you, no, I’m not joking!

“I pledge that for a limited period, the proceeds from sales of my novel ‘Ten Days’ and my series of ‘Rhyme Scenes’ poetry books will be donated to the Comic Relief 2013 fund.”

Now we need some parameters to work from.  1. The figures will be calculated from Monday 14th January 2013 up to and including Friday 15th March 2013.

2. All monies will be added to the funds raised by other Ryman Limited employees.  I now work for our local branch on a part-time basis.  The Ryman stationery company is owned by Theo Paphitis, entrepeneur, millionaire, philanthropist and all-round good bloke.

Theo Paphitis

Theo Paphitis

On alternate years the company sponsors Comic Relief or Sport Relief as appropriate.  Cash is raised by selling sponsored items like ‘Red Nose’ pens.  ‘Comic Relief’ T-shirts are bought by the employees to increase the funds.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds is raised by individual employees and groups within the Ryman company – some of whom do very strange things for sponsorship.

If anything particularly eye-popping comes up I’ll mention it here.  With the best will in the world I could put my hand in my pocket and make a moderate donation, but I would much prefer to give more and with the help of my e-Books and the generosity of lots of other people I can do that this year.  Sales of my e-Books would be nice, but it would be more gratifying for me to be able to build a sum of money to donate to Comic Relief 2013.

So, what do you, my prospective fund-raising buddy need to know?

1. In order to make it easy I intend to maintain the individual prices of the novel and three of the poetry books at only $1.99 each.  It seems fitting that the first poetry volume, ‘Humour’ is a mere $0.99Any cash payable to me (after the tax man gets his cut), will be donated to the fund.  At time of writing $1.99 is approximately £1.30, which to most of us, is not a lot …

2.  The novel, ‘Ten Days’ is a romantic thriller, but can be enjoyed equally by male or female readers (honestly, I know).

3.  The four books of poetry are: ‘Humour’‘Love and Romance’, ‘Natural History’ and the latest release, ‘Military Matters’.  There will be more books to come, but at the time of writing these are available immediately for download.

By using Smashwords to publish, my novel or poetry books, they can be downloaded as: .mobi (for Kindle), Epub (for Adobe, Nook, Sony, Kobo, iPad, iBook), PDF (for PC or Laptop), RTF (for wordprocessors), PDB (for Palm readers/apps).

Direct link to the eBooks on my Smashwords homepage: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TomBenson

We can reduce this ....

We can reduce this ….

No pressure, but please remember, all the money paid for my eBooks between Monday 14th January 2013 and Friday 15th March 2013 will be donated to Comic Relief 2013.

Thank you on behalf of those who survive to become the eventual grateful recipients of our fund-raising.  Tom

New Opportunities

2013 New - photo edgeHello one and all and welcome to 2013 – our New Year.  As my freshly produced graphic would suggest, I’m setting off into this new year with a positive attitude to what it might bring.  We all have the choice of starting out positive and letting that attitude slip away over time, or we can maintain that same effort throughout the year.

Early last year I decided to cut back on my retail work and increase my writing output.  I managed to write a novel from scratch and publish it as an e-book, which in itself delighted me.  ‘Ten Days’ is that novel, which has now sold into double figures, so although it hasn’t enabled me to retire from my support job completely, it’s nice to know it’s out there.  At present my novel is published with www.smashwords.com – but if there is insufficient sign of movement in sales, I’ll move the book.

Before the old year reached it’s end I managed to do three things that had been ambitions since the Summer months.  First, I discovered that I could work with my portfolio of poetry to produce a set of at least 6 volumes in different genre.  Second, I established a personal website: www.tom-benson.co.uk  in which I display both my writing and artwork.  Third, and importantly for the financial side of things, I invested in a Desktop Publishing (DTP) programme so I could produce my own artwork for book covers.

I can now report that I have published my first three volumes of poetry as e-books on Smashwords.  The main title of the series is ‘Rhyme Scenes’ and I am producing the cover designs myself.  I’m now well on the way with the next in the set.  ‘Rhyme Scenes, Volume Four …’ which is subtitled, ‘Military Matters’ and will contain a collection of fact, fiction, supernatural and observation.  I will of course be writing a blog post to support the e-book when I publish, which I’m scheduled to do in mid-January.

My aim is to follow up immediately by working on the next category, which is: ‘Thrills, Spills and Chills’ – a collection of thriller, adventure, fantasy, fact and anything that doesn’t fit neatly into the other genre.  My final category is ‘series’ poetry which may be issued as a single volume or spread into two – which I haven’t decided about yet.  Among the series are a host of topics but again, I’ll post about them when the book is published.

By the Spring I’m aiming to have all my poetry volumes published and then I can start to work seriously on my next novel.  I had been considering a sequel to ‘Ten Days’, but I have two other options.  The first is to go back to work on ‘Hawk’ which started life as a series of poetry and then was written as a novel in a month for the NaNoWriMo in November 2011.  My other option for a novel is to go back to my first attempt at novel writing.  The working title is ‘A Life Of Choice’ and was in it’s original draft my autobiography.  In light of what I’ve read, written and learned over the last couple of years the story will become a fictional tale of a young man who leaves home and enters a voyage of self-discovery in a military career.  The tale will bring into play his successes, failures and constantly changing mindset.

On the traditional side of life I’ll be completing a final edit of my short story, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ for inclusion in the next anthology to be released by the Inkerman Writers, our local writing group.

My new three-day working week should afford me the luxury of working on all of these projects and more besides.  I want to improve my website among other things and to increase my potential readership with a more aggresive marketing campaign and a greater web presence.  Any comments here or on my website are greatly appreciated, as are any reviews of my e-books.

Ten Days

It took eleven months, four drafts and a little help, but it’s out there. 

‘Ten Days’, my romantic thriller is published on Smashwords.  According to all I’ve heard, the hard work starts now – the marketing.  Well, I’ve been in retail for 20 years so I must have learned something about marketing.

I published this morning and since then I’ve networked with several folk on Facebook and sent out a message on Twitter, which will be amended and retweeted over the next week or two, just in case it is missed by anyone.  I’ve sent out links for the 20% sample to a few people and I have a few more to add to that list.

Perhaps a little unique, but I’ve also written a poem with a flavour of the main characters.  I’ll post that on The Starlite Cafe site when I’ve tidied up the lines a little more.  For now I’ll have my front cover on here and this brief post.  Now I’ll have to get back to my big push.

What’s next?  Tomorrow I’ll be formatting the manuscript for publication on Amazon/Kindle.

A link?  Of course: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/257906

Please check it out, or better still, buy it!  As Arnie said, ‘I’ll be back!’

Oh my Wordle …

Proportion of word usage in ‘Ten Days’ – Chapter 3

Welcome to the world of Wordle.  Until today I had never visited the site although I had a knowledge of ‘word clouds’.  I must say a big thank you here to my online friend and fellow blogger Chloe for pointing me in the direction of this incredible tool.

My romantic novel ‘Ten Days’ is now at a point where a lot depends on; feedback from my five sample readers, the response from my proof-reader and the results of the person tackling the design for the front cover.  Personally I’m in the process of reading a hard copy of the manuscript, word by word and line by line.

I was aware of the overuse of some words but not others.  It’s a romantic novel featuring two main characters; Pete and Gloria, so you might well expect them to appear a lot.  In my Wordle experiment, I found that to be the case so I was pleased.  After subjecting the entire novel to the filter effect of the Wordle system it seems that I rather like the word ‘looked’.

No, that’s not quite correct.  I’m lazy where the word ‘looked’ is concerned, so I should now be seeking to alter it on many occasions to a word of similar meaning … and I’ve ‘looked’ and there are several out there.  I would recommend Wordle to all writers.

Progress on the novel?  Yes, I think I can say with confidence that I’ve made some.  I’ve got the main task done, which is reaching the end of the third draft.  My read-through will be a tidy-up and then my proof-reader will highlight issues for me.  I have the opinions of one of my sample readers already and I’m confident in my cover designer’s ability.

I’ve decided to take the self-publishing route through Smashwords to produce an e-book.  I’ve read all three books produced by the man behind SmashwordsMr. Mark Coker.  Once I’ve managed to work my way through that system I’ll tackle the Amazon Kindle method.  One step at a time eh!

My aim is now to get the book out there for early-mid November.  I have plenty of work to do yet and I still have to depend to a great extent on other people.  One last thing to do is a bit of self-marketing.  My website is now up and running, ‘Tom Benson – Creative Writer and Artist’.  If you’ve checked in here, please feel free to check in there too, browse and leave a comment in the Guestbook.  I’m constantly adding to my art portfolio on the site so it’s not just writing in there.

TEN DAYS – the novel

As I move on with the third draft of my romantic thriller I’ve taken the step of sharing my jacket blurb on Facebook.  I’ve also shared Chapter 1 to give a taste of my writing style.  My theory is that even if only 1 in 10 people who see the post actually go in and read either one of them then my marketing has started successfully.  If I am fortunate enough to attract any reasonable comments I’ll add a second chapter to my blog next month.

A working cover for the e-Book

My graphic is a working cover page for the e-Book and may not resemble the finished article.  I’ll use Twitter and local media when the time is right and I’ll continue to plug the story on Facebook.  My other intention is to print off and distribute five copies to readers for market research purposes.

The jacket blurb I’ve used is only an experiment and may well change, but the first chapter is close to the finished article as it stands now.

My main investment has been time and effort but depending on the result of my strategy I may have to put money into the pot.  I’ve worked out at the moment that a single photocopy of the manuscript is going to cost me £9.  If all goes well I hope to recoup whatever outlay I have in that area.

I will very shortly live up to my promise to myself to reduce my retail working hours which will mean a serious drop in pay, but a vast increase in time invested in writing.  In order that I don’t look as if my retail work is actually going backwards and out of control, I fully intend to alter my status and profession on any social media with which I’m connected – so watch this space.

Advancing Steadily

Krefeld First School, Krefeld, Germany

My featured graphic is a drawing I completed of Krefeld First School in Krefeld, Germany.  Our son went there after a short time attending Wavell Junior School in Catterick.  The drawing was to go on to become the front cover of official handouts from the school featured.  Apart from the notion of advancing steadily I feel it’s worth noting that there was a simple, but accurate compass painted on the playground.  How military is that!  That was rhetorical, so please don’t inundate me with suggestions.  Why mention the compass?  Apart from advancing it gives a loose connection to going in the right direction.  Okay, I’m stretching a point.  No, I refuse to say a compass point.

If you’re still with me the whole theme of advancement is to do with my romantic thriller, ‘Ten Days’.  I’ve now completed the first two drafts and things are going well with the third.  In an effort to give more substance to the two main characters I’ve allowed them both a chapter apiece at the start.  They had previously been sharing both the first chapters but I’m now happy with the change.  Apart from saying it’s romantic and a thriller I can confirm that the main story takes place in Panama, Central America.

For the time being I’ll withold the jacket blurb and the front page strapline but I can now confirm I’ve requested our son Andrew to design the front cover for me.  As an artist I have ideas, but Andrew is creative naturally and professionally so it would be foolish of me to go it alone.

What’s next?  Of course we should really look forward if we’re calling this post Advancing Steadily.  My intention is to complete the third and final draft by early October.  I will have five sets of the manuscript printed and give them to a variety of pre-selected readers with a standard questionaire to give me feedback.  If all goes well I will self-publish as an E-book in November.